$55 million awarded to Market Me in health ministry contracts

$55 million awarded to Market Me in health ministry contracts

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
SENIOR STAFF REPORTER
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 17, 2020

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Market Me Jamaica, the company now at the centre of questions surrounding contracts awarded by the health ministry and the relationship between the entity and portfolio minister Dr Christopher Tufton, was awarded two contracts totalling approximately $55 million between December 2016 and June 2019.

The 2016 contract was for $15.9 million and in June last year the company was awarded a contract for $39 million for the Jamaica Moves programme. In both instances the contracts had not been put to tender.

Permanent secretary in the ministry Dunstan Bryan made the disclosure yesterday at a Ministry of Health and Wellness press conference called to give an update on the COVID-19 situation in the island.

He also said the first contract was an unsolicited proposal which required direct contracting, and that the second contract was a continuation of that arrangement. Bryan also said the ministry has engaged Market Me to carry out its communication strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked why the ministry opted to use a private contractor instead of the State public relations arm Jamaica Information Service and internal public relations specialists, Bryan said the terms of the contract were for social marketing geared towards promoting health through behaviour change, and that it was not a strictly public relations initiative.

According to the permanent secretary, “Within Government we have the capacity to do many things; however, there are specific things that need to be outsourced because of the limitations that we have, because dedicated staff have to do multiple things, and when you want to address specific activities you have to utilise outsourcing. That is why we went this route because of the specialisation and the social marketing component.”

He insisted that the contracts to Market Me had been approved by the procurement commission.

Dr Tufton, who the Opposition has called on to outline the nature of his relations with Market Me Jamaica and its principal, and whether he may have used this position to influence the award of the contract, stated that “Yes, I have a great relationship with Market Me. I think they are an amazing company, they have delivered very effectively during my tenure, and I have no difficulty saying that. They work hard and I've enjoyed working with them.”

Bryan said there was no recommendation from the minister for Market Me.

“The recommendation of Market Me is not a function of the minister recommending Market Me... There was an initial unsolicited proposal, and because that contact came to an end there was a follow-on contract because the work of the Jamaica Moves programme continues. So it was a function of the preceding contract, and then the follow-on contract, which was justified to the procurement commission, and approved for the award for the second contract,” Bryan said.


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