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Marin Confuses MoH/NHI Debacle

Marin Confuses MoH/NHI Debacle
August 09
21:49 2019

Friday, August 9th. 2019 –

Minister of Health, Pablo Marin, in an interview with the media on Wednesday attempted to stem criticism following controversy over a $1.68 Million contract awarded to Minister Rene Montero’s brother for a Central Medical Stores building in Belmopan to be financed with the NHI reserve fund. Marin’s interview, however, left more questions than answers after he revealed that he had informed the Prime Minister about the proposal.

The comments created some confusion, especially since Prime Minister Dean Barrow told the Reporter categorically last week that he had no knowledge of the request, that he intended to inquire into the proposal himself and that he did not support such a request.

“We did ask the Prime Minister…can we use the funds? We wanted to find a source where we can do a new CMS,” Marin said before a reporter pointed out that Barrow claimed no knowledge of the request. “No, no, no. He didn’t claim in the sense that you know what, what was happening with this. Remember, I did all that we needed to do for us to get the estimate and to get the proposal. When we took it to PM, he had to ask SSB if that is possible. SSB said that is not possible,” Marin said, creating further confusion.

Marin also said he never submitted an official proposal, despite Barrow and Financial Secretary Joseph Waight both confirming they had gotten a letter from the Ministry of Health identifying the $1.68 million from the NHI reserves for the building. Waight and Barrow had also both clarified that the Ministry of Finance memo which had leaked was simply a response to the Ministry of Health request seeking approval for the funds.

When pressed further on whether the Prime Minister was indeed aware of his intention to source the money from the NHI reserve for the CMS building, Marin backtracked saying “No, no. What I’m saying is we have to come with a proposal but it was never sent to any of them. It is in our hands – we did all the due diligence to find funds. It was verbal,” he said.

Marin also defended the limited tendering process which saw Rolando Montero, brother of Minister Rene Montero, win the contract. He reiterated Waight’s comments that the ministry was satisfied that the tendering process was transparent and fair. Marin also disclosed that he was the one who initially identified the $1.68 million from the NHI reserve fund. He also said he intends to continue seeking funding for the project as it is meant to alleviate rent expenses from the Ministry by constructing a facility of its own.

Last week after the memo had leaked publicly, Social Security Board Chief Executive Officer Collin Young told the media that SSB had not received any formal request for the money and said that he only became aware of the situation through media reports. Furthermore, he added, SSB would not be able to facilitate the request as the legislation is clear that the SSB reserve funds cannot be used for any purpose other than anything directly related to NHI. “I don’t believe that the purpose that is in the memo would fall within one of the areas that can be funded with NHI funds,” he said.

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