Did you know that over 20% of all pandemic funds ended up being wasted during the pandemic?
While countries like the United States and the United Kingdom can afford such losses, Fiji is not in the same position. With record unemployment and job losses at the start of the pandemic, the entire country suffered financially.
At the centre of the corruption allegations and broken promises in Fiji was the pharmaceutical giant, Aspen Medical. Having received dozens of public service contracts when the country was in crisis, Aspen failed the people of Fiji.
If you’re looking for information about Aspen Medical and its failures in Fiji, you’re in the right place. Here’s a full breakdown of Aspen’s broken promises and corrupt public service contracts.
What Are Public-Private Partnerships?
Public-Private Partnerships are contractual relationships between the public and private sectors. This generally deals with the procurement of products or services for the government. These agreements can range from simple procurement to large-scale deals worth billions of dollars.
Due to the size and nature of these agreements, private companies will often go the extra mile in order to land one. These contracts are so lucrative that a private company may only need a few to be a billion-dollar private company.
These agreements are also rife with corruption. This is because many private companies go too far to try and secure these contracts without delivering them. This leaves taxpayers with the bill while also having to suffer from the lack of adequate public services.
Public Service Contracts
When it comes to high-profile contracts, it doesn’t get bigger than government sector contracts. This is due to the size of the contracts available. While supply contracts for most businesses can be lucrative, public service contracts can be worth millions of dollars.
These public service contracts are the most fundamental way the public and private sectors work with each other. Designed and published by the government, these contracts allow private companies to apply. This makes these partnerships and contracts important as public trust is at stake.
These contracts can range from construction to management services. This is what led to Aspen Medical winning contracts to both extend and manage hospitals.
Pandemic Service Contracts
The COVID-19 pandemic put a massive financial strain on the world economy. Developing countries around the world suffered from the financial fallout of the pandemic.
Despite this, governments around the world increased their spending on healthcare. The immediate needs were to buy protective equipment. This included gloves, masks, face shields, and gowns.
These were emergency contracts released due to the pandemic. This means that due process was not completely followed, leading to widespread irregularities. This resulted in a few powerful companies managing to win contracts worth millions of dollars overnight.
What Is the FNPF?
The FNPF is the Fiji National Provident Fund. This is an alternative investment vehicle for the public sector to invest in the country. The National Provident Fund groups the retirement savings of the country and invests it on their behalf.
The Fiji National Provident Fund is one of the largest pension funds in Fiji, with investments in property and private companies throughout the country. This includes a number of premium hotels such as the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and the Grand Pacific Hotel.
While many may be impressed by the portfolio of investments made by the FNPF, many also question the relationship they have with Aspen Medical. Despite the size of the investment, the FNPF does not list the relationship on its website at all.
What Partnership Did the FNPF Have with Aspen?
The FNPF relationship with Aspen Medical PTY was brought to light in ABC’s investigative documentary, Four Corners. This ‘Aspen Exposed’ show showcased the relationship and described how the two entities formed a new subsidiary, Health Care Fiji Ltd.
This new company was designed to take over the management and operations of two major hospitals in Fiji. While this kind of public-private relationship is not uncommon, the partnership makes it much easier for Aspen to get a hand on those lucrative government contracts.
Without the partnership with the National Provident Fund, Aspen would have to apply for the contract just like any other private healthcare company. This partnership makes it much easier for the pharmaceutical giant to walk into massive paydays at the expense of the people of Fiji.
In terms of money, millions of dollars have been poured into the new subsidiary. Professor Prasad from the NFP claimed that around $10,1 million was paid in three instalments. He also clarifies that almost half a million dollars were then borrowed by Aspen Medical from the Provident Fund.
The NFP has clarified its stance on the issue and wants to know where the money has gone. This $10,1 million simply must be accounted for.
What Promises Did Aspen Medical Make to the People of Fiji?
Through this new company, Heath Care Fiji Limited was set to take over two major hospitals in Fiji. This includes both the expansion plans and management of the entire facility. This partnership was done quickly and quietly, making it even more suspicious to journalists and political commentators watching.
When this deal first came to light, the Fijian Government had to step into the spotlight. They did this to clarify that Aspen won a fair tender process to allow them to partner with the NPF. This may have been the official story, but nobody seemed to buy it.
This deal did come with significant plans to upgrade hospitals and introduce new medical technologies as well. This is why the deal was part of Aspen’s marketing strategy. This deal gave them the opportunity to invest in Fiji and train more Fijians in the area.
The Lautoka Hospital was at the centre of the deal between Aspen Medical and the National Provident Fund. Health Care Fiji was set to manage and expand the hospital. Aspen spent quite a bit of money advertising all the plans they had for the hospital as well.
Ba Hospital Management
The new Ba Hospital was one of the major new investments into public health in Fiji. The new subsidiary was to manage the Ba Hospital on behalf of the government. There were also plans to expand the hospital and create new jobs for the economy but has been stagnant at best.
With only 150 employees currently employed there, Aspen Medical has announced that it plans to hire 100 more staffers by the end of the year. This may be a welcomed announcement but is far off the initial estimate they taunted before.
Aspen Medical Failures
Aspen Medical has a long list of medical wrongdoings following them around. These claims only intensified during the pandemic. This is because more people became aware of the activities and corrupt culture within the organisation.
From broken promises to straight-up lies, Aspen has taken money from the Fijian people. This happened without fear of punishment, setting a dangerous precedent for the future. The medical company promised more jobs and modern medical training facilities. However, the people of Fiji are still waiting for answers.
Aspen Medical’s Publicity Campaign
Aspen Medical is a huge pharmaceutical company. Despite their size, the company has been under much scrutiny over the last few years. From dodgy deals with governments around the world to their work with healthcare services in prisons, Aspen has done a great job to hide it all.
Aspen Medical has a perfectly curated wiki page that reads more like an advert than a bio. This messaging is evident on all its social media platforms, making it a clear marketing strategy. This contrasts Aspen’s initial promises to the people of Fiji of better service.
This publicity campaign may have worked to appease shareholders, but has not silenced the people. Journalists and political commentators continue to press Aspen daily. Aspen has also featured in many exposing documentaries in the past few years, with the largest being by ABC.
Hold Aspen Medical Accountable
Aspen Medical should be held accountable for its failures. The corruption and incompetency should make it impossible for them to enjoy public sector contracts in the future.
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Together, we can work to hold Aspen Medical accountable for its failures and broken promises.