By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
The Auditor General’s Office is planning to do another audit of the Central Health Region (CHR) within the next few months to uncover irregularities which may have gone unnoticed in their first audit.
Auditor General Dorothy Bradley told The Reporter that given the amount of irregularities and misuse of public funds observed in the report from her office, which was recently leaked, her office feels it necessary to conduct another comprehensive audit of the CHR.
Bradley also said that she hasn’t received any response from any official based on the recommendations that her office made in regard to the irregularities uncovered during its audit.
One of those recommendations was that the Ministry Of Health (MOH) take action to recover those public monies, which were improperly prepaid to vendors for services and items not received to date.
The report also recommended that the ministry ensure that any monies due to the NHI bank account that were used for the CHR or any other entity other than the Matron Roberts Polyclinic be refunded.
Bradley’s team also recommended that the MOH take action against the officers if they are found culpable in contravention of Financial Order #373 which states:
“In the event of any payment being made in consequence of an incorrect certificate on a voucher, the officer authorizing the voucher for payment shall be held responsible for the same, and the amount may be surcharged against him.”
Another recommendation was that the MOH consider implementing a “fraud and wrong doing” notification system that would give public officers a channel through which they could report any allegation of wrong doing so that the issue may be resolved in a timely manner.
The recommendations were the result of discovering mass misuse of public funds by CHR Manager Melinda Guerra. The report also implicated then Financial Officer Judith Swift as well as Administrator Alexy Rosado and even MOH CEO Peter Allen.
According to the audit report, Guerra submitted, approved and received the proceeds of four reimbursement claims, which totalled $3,407.50 for costs she claimed to have incurred in an official capacity.
Guerra, according to the report, never actually incurred those debts. The audit team found that in one instance a reimbursement of $500 was paid to Guerra, for purchase of food for a CORE team meeting at San Pedro Polyclinic on May 2, 2013, although food was already provided.
The audit team also found another claim for reimbursement for food, when that food was already paid for.
In another instance Guerra was reimbursed $1,907 for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in pre-paying for a Glow Box, Gel and Powder Materials. Those supplies were never received.
On another occasion, Guerra was reimbursed $600 because she said she pre-paid for four boxes of x-ray films for the San Pedro Polyclinic but according to the report those films never reached their destination.
According to the report, there were also two iPad mini’s bought from Fultec Systems but were requisitioned as two hard-drives and the apparent intentional misrepresentation was evident.
Guerra and Swift both admitted that they were aware of the fact that what was ordered and paid for was not received. According to the report only Guerra and Swift knew of the iPads.
The audit team found that in August 2012, the NHI account at the Matron Roberts Polyclinic was used to pay $2,765.53 for plane tickets to Chicago, for Health Minister Pablo Marin and CEO Allen.
The report states that all foreign travel is usually done through the Ministry of Finance and payment should be centralized through that Ministry. In this case Guerra and Rosado approved the cheque.
Rosado claimed that the request came straight from Allen. According to Allen, he and the Minister travelled to Chicago to deal with a possible donation of ambulances, which was not destined for the polyclinic.
The audit team also found that $64,432.77 was used for the purchase of a vehicle for the Ministry of Health.
The audit team pointed out that vehicle purchases are done through the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
There was no supporting documentation from MOF to authorize the payment, approved by Guerra and Rosado. Again, Rosado told the team that the instructions came straight from Allen. Allen claimed to have received authorization from the MOF, but could not provide the documentation at the time of the audit.