By Adama Tine
Banjul Oxygen Company Ltd has threatened to stop supplying the Ministry of Health (MoH) and other major hospitals across the country with oxygen cylinders over arrears amounting to millions of dalasis.
A sources familiar with the matter claimed that the country’s health ministry owes the company some D13.6 million.
However, the ministry through its permanent secretary denied such reports, claiming that the amount owed to the company is not up to D13.6 million.
A senior official of the company who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “We are not going to supply the ministry with any oxygen cylinders until we are fully paid our arrears. We have been supplying the ministry with oxygen cylinders since the ministry and our company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 22nd July 2021,” the source added.
Banjul Oxygen Company and the Ministry of Health, the sources added, signed this agreement at a time when the coronavirus cases in the country were on the rise.
“We were running this company 24 hours just to make sure that we supply the ministry with oxygen cylinders they requested. As a matter of fact, we started supplying them with oxygen cylinders in March of 2021. However, in July 2021, the ministry prepared an MoU between us. Unfortunately, since things died out, we are finding it very difficult for the ministry to pay us.”
“What is even worrying is the fact that we are approaching the fourth wave of the deadly pandemic. I am quite sure if we stop supplying the ministry with the oxygen, then there will be disaster at the Ndeban Treatment Centre.”
In fact, right now as I am speaking to you, I don’t even think that the ministry has oxygen at the treatment center for the Covid-19 patients. Again, we are also not willing to supply the ministry until they meet their obligation,” the source posited.
“The ministry is aware of these pending unpaid monies and the doctors at the Ndeban Clinic are also aware of what is happening. Surprisingly to us, the ministry is now asking us for documents which are not relevant for the fact that we already signed an MoU and the documents which they are asking for are not specified in the MoU,” the source added.
“This has never happened because we are supplying all the hospitals in the country. As a matter of fact, during the time of former President Yahya Jammeh, he (Jammeh) once told them to waive all GPPA protocols and others.
“In fact, he (Jammeh) said he was going to allocate a certain amount of money for oxygen supply. Therefore, we just cannot understand these rules coming from the ministry of health,” the source stated.
According to the source, during the Covid-19 period, they invested over 4 million dalasi to provide a generator and step down transformer with the objectives of keeping up with the demands at the time. “Therefore, that cannot be an issue now.”
“I can assure you that if the ministry failed to settle us, then we will hold back our supply. For us to continue the supply, we have to make an investment for this oxygen. I want to let them know that without oxygen, it’s almost impossible to run these hospitals.”
Muhammed Lamin Jaiteh, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health, who was contacted for comments, said: “The ministry is aware of the issue and we are working tremendously in ensuring that we settle the company. However, according to our records, we do not owe them D13 million as I saw in the media reports.”