Health advocates say sacking is part of plot to discredit state drug maker
A health advocacy group kicked off a campaign yesterday to protest over the sacking of Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) chief Witit Artavatkun.
Deputy Public Health Minister Chonlanan Srikaew will today seek approval from Cabinet for Witit to be sacked. The move comes after Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong signed an official note on Friday ordering Chonlanan to take the issue to Cabinet.
But the advocacy group has launched an online petition to collect signatures and opinions from members of the public who oppose the decision by the GPO's executive board on Friday to fire managing director Witit for alleged "negligence in not protecting the state drug maker".
Witit was sacked over alleged irregularities in the procurement of raw material to produce paracetamol and delays in the construction of a flu vaccine factory and an HIV/Aids drug plant.
Saree Ongsomwang, a secretary-general of the Foundation for Consumers, said: "The decision to fire Witit was made too quickly by GPO executive board. The inquiry into the alleged irregularities was not fair. The board did not give Witit a chance to give testimony."
Yesterday some 60 people had agreed with the group and signed the petition via www.change.org.
They believe the plan to fire Witit is part of a conspiracy by multinational drug makers and commercial doctors to weaken and destroy the GPO's credibility.
"We must stop the sacking of Witit and ask the Cabinet to conduct an investigation into this case again, with transparency and fairness," Saree said in the petition, which will be submitted to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Cabinet.
According to the petition, Witit had created benefit and profit for the GPO during his at the helm.
He had helped people living with HIV/Aids and patients with chronic kidney disease get access to cheap life-saving drugs.
Pradit insisted he had not interfered in the decision by the GPO executive board over the dismissal.
However, the petition group believes political intervention led to the sacking of Witit.
Dr Pipat Yingseri, chairman of the GPO board, said the decision to fire Witit did not follow a political instruction. He said the decision was based on evidence over Witit's negligence.
"Witit has the right to do anything if he thinks the sacking was unfair - but the board gave him a chance to resolve the problem and we considered [his dismissal] carefully," he said.
"I am here not to work in response to politicians' needs."
In a related development, the Auditor General's Office has sent an official warning to the National Health Security Office (NHSO) over its decision to allow the Public Health Ministry to manage Bt75 million allocated to the GPO. It said this would be inappropriate budget management.
The money is meant to back healthcare units and state hospitals which purchase GPO drug products via the NHSO.
NHSO secretary general Dr Winai Sawasdivorn insisted his decision complied with the law and did not violate any regulation.
Source: The Nation 21 May 2013