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#476748 - 11/07/13 04:01 AM Corruption Sickness At Health?
Marty Offline

For weeks we’ve been reporting on the missing money – hundreds of thousands of dollars fleeced from the Southern Regional Hospital.  But, there are also credible reports of irregularities at the Dangriga Polyclinic, the Central Region and the Punta Gorda polyclinic.  Indeed, a tidy chunk the 103 million dollar budget of the Ministry of Health is, it appears, lost to graft.  Today we asked the CEO about the panorama of dishonesty confronting the ministry:…

Jules Vasquez
"Monies were put into a fund for every child born, and those monies should have been used to bolster the hospital's resources. Those monies were not used for that. The money - hundreds of thousands, from what we've heard - were fleeced. What is the status with the person who stands accused from the auditor general review/audit?"

Dr. Peter Allen - CEO, Ministry of Health
"I haven't spoken to the individual, but the individual, Ms. Sommerville, is still on suspension. The investigation by the Auditor General's Department continues. The investigation by the police continues. I understand from indirect sources that Ms. Sommerville says that she is innocent. She is not guilty of the accusations that have been leveled against here. And in the absence of firm evidence, I really can't add more than that, except to say that the investigations do continue."

Jules Vasquez
"Would you accept your complicity in this - not in a corrupt manner - but in a manner in which - I am reliably informed - you were warned years ago that there were irregularities, with this account, both at the PG Polyclinic, and at the Southern Regional Hospital. You were warned; you were told, and you did nothing about it."

Dr. Peter Allen
"Well, I don't remember actually being warned of such potential challenges, but certainly, we are aware that there are always challenges to any financial system. The difficulty with these accounts is that as part of the purchasing mechanism, we want to decentralize financial authority and responsibility closer to the people who are affected by the decisions that are made. So, we had special permission from the Ministry of Finance - I think from 2006 - to open accounts that the administrators and managers at the local level would be able to administrate."

Jules Vasquez
"There are irregularities that I have heard of - there are also irregularities that I've heard of at the Polyclinic in Dangriga. And I am quite reliably informed the person who runs the polyclinic is UDP - former UDP Town Councillor - and because of that, irregularities have been - he'd receive a slap on the wrist. And it has come to your attention."

Dr. Peter Allen
"There have been irregularities in the handling of cash accounts - or checking accounts, simply because we don't have direct control over them, and when those irregularities have arisen. But certainly, there is no irregularities in the form of corruption that we're aware of."

Jules Vasquez
"I understand that there is also audit that has been completed for thte Central Region, which is a large area, and that has also pinpointed irregularities in the system, where money is again being fleeced from public purse."

Dr. Peter Allen
"Actually, we've received the first draft of the report for that audit at the Central Region, just over a week ago. The process normally would be that we provide a copy of that report to the offices in question within the report, and then ask them to respond. I believe that's been done, but I haven't seen any respond yet. The important thing from my perspective is that we do everything we can, first of all, to recover any funds that may or may not have been lost, and also that we take all appropriate actions, both administrative and criminal, if it turns out to be the case."

Jules Vasquez
"But from the public's perspective he most important thing is that the wrongdoers be named, shamed, and blamed."

Dr. Peter Allen
"But certainly, we also respect the rights of officers who have served in the public service for a while, and we do work on the fundamental principle, that people are innocent until proven guilty." 

Allen told us he was scheduled to meet with the Auditor General and the Financial Secretary today.  The auditor General will also investigate the Dangriga Polyclinic.

Channel 7

#490676 - 05/09/14 05:48 AM Re: Corruption Sickness At Health? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Southern Regional: How The Embezzlement Went Down

In October of last year, reports surfaced of a massive case of embezzlement at the Southern Regional Hospital. Initial reports said that as much as $300,000 thousand dollars were misappropriated from the hospital's Maternal and Child Health account. The Administrator Nasley Somerville was immediately placed on suspension - and she remains on that tonight, awaiting a hearing form the public services commission.

The commission will rely heavily on the completed report from the Auditor General. The 22 page document was submitted a month ago, and tonight, 7News has been leaked a rough copy of 15 of those pages. It paints a picture of massive fraud that went unchecked because of a total absence of internal controls at the Ministry of Health. Here now are the report's major findings.

Jules Vasquez reporting
"Confidential" - the Audit Report was submitted on April 11th, subject: the suspected embezzlement of 366,468.88 from the Maternal Child Health account at the Southern Regional Hospital by Administrator Nasley Somerville.

The report shows that over a 45 month period from January 2010 to September 2013, the abuses were multiple and serial while oversight from the ministry was nil - leaving the public accounts with a gaping hole: 189 cheques missing.

But, while the hospital has no record of them, the Auditor General got copies of 181 cashed cheques from the Belize Bank in Dangriga - the report describes them as forged - since they were not issued with the requisite authority.

And forgeries because the alleged co-signator on all the cheques is administrative assistant Barbara Nicholas who says she had no knowledge of any of them - and in fact was on leave when some of them were signed.

Somervile purportedly cashed 49 checks valued at 118 thousand dollars which were made out to cash, deposited 10 checks valued at 15 thousand dollars and made out in her name directly to her Credit Union account, made 71 checks payable to other persons in the amount of $145,000 thousand dollars - the proceeds of which the FIU says ended up in her account, bought twenty thousand dollars' worth of items with 21 checks, and deposited five cheques valued at $11,000 thousand dollars into the account of a colleague, Dr Francis Morey. The Auditor General notes that Dr, Morey admitted that he received the cheques as deposits to his personal bank account.

He says it was a fifteen thousand dollar loan from Somerville which he would pay back, but directly to her account. He told the Auditor General he thought the funds were from her personal account not the Southern Regional.

The Auditor General recommends that the ministry get back the money directly from him since he is still employed with the Ministry.

But the Auditor General found that it was being used much like a personal account - she purportedly used a cheque from the account to buy two ladies Pulsar watches and a picture frame from Brodies for $747 dollars. The Auditor General found that quite incredibly she then submitted a reimbursement claim form for using the original invoice linked to a cheque from the maternal child health account.

These purchases from Brodies, Mirab and Hofius were for a thousand dollar Seiko watch, perfumes, kitchen and bathroom items, and various household items a total of $7580 dollars of house fixtures - which does make one wonder - when she posts pictures like this on facebook.

The auditor General also found that the account was used to purchase a gas range from Mirab. So how did this all go on for so long? Well, no one checked on the account - the bank statements never reached back to the hospital because the Bank says Somerville picked them up directly.

And while the report fingers her as the culprit - It makes it clear that ultimate responsibility rests to quote, "make sure that a proper system of accounting IS DEVISED...IN THIS CASE the basic principles of internal controls were not complied with which provided an opportunity for the embezzlement scheme to go undetected for approximately two years costing the government $366,468.88"

Somerville was supposed to appear before the Public Services Commission today but that was postponed because the commission was relying on the initial report, and not the completed one we just laid out for you. They are now updating their deliberations. When asked about 3 cheques bearing what appeared clearly to be her handwriting, Somerville told Audit Department investigators that she does not recall going to the bank and cashing any checks.

The police have been investigating since last year, but have made no arrest.

Channel 7

#490727 - 05/10/14 06:05 AM Re: Corruption Sickness At Health? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Health CEO Allen Responds To That Damning SRH Audit

Last night we showed you the Auditor General's report on the embezzlement of almost four hundred thousand dollars from the Southern Regional Hospital. It is a damming catalogue of criminality at the individual level and carelessness at the official level.

Basically, anyone who's seen the report has to wonder, how could it be that no one was keeping an eye an account with hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds? For years no one saw a bank statement or asked for one. Incredible, and it went on for three years, and probably more.

In the end, the Auditor General Dorothy Bradley found that the ultimate responsibility rests with the CEO in the Ministry of Health, Peter Allen. Today at a press conference on another subject, we asked him about it:...

Jules Vasquez
"It says that ultimately the fault rest with you the CEO. The accounts went unchecked for 2 years and 9 months. The government of Belize lost $366,468.88. And the auditor general in her opinion, her considered opinion, said the blame rest with you."

Dr. Peter Allen, CEO - Ministry of Health
"It's interesting that this report is out because I was of the understanding that it was before the public service commission, so I am reluctant to debate the contents of the report which of course the individuals name in it have not yet have the chance to respond. But as you know the buck has to stop somewhere and I believe that is probably what the report says, that the chief executive office is also the chief accounting officer and therefore ultimately within that ministry the chief accounting officer is responsible for what happens."

Hon. Pablo Marin, Minister of Health
"Definitely I still maintain a full confidence in my CEO. What we look at the ministry is always for the benefit of our people."

Allen was speaking at a press conference his ministry had on the current fuss over pharmaceuticals, and we'll have full coverage of that event a little later in the news.

Channel 7

#490741 - 05/10/14 08:46 AM Re: Corruption Sickness At Health? [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Who was allowed to import the counterfeit drugs?
Belize based travel specialist


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