When we left you last night, KHMH whistleblower Delroy Herrera was in police custody being investigated for handling stolen goods - namely, over ten thousand computer files that he copied from the KHMH's internal server as a former store-room clerk.
Well, it seems Police didn't quite have enough to hold him and Herrera was released at 7:30 pm. He came directly to out studio to tell us he had been freed, and that he would have to go back to the police station today to get two computers that had been confiscated.
And that's where we picked up the story this morning - except that there was a twist - instead of just picking up his computers, Delroy Herrera got picked up, again. His attorney Arthur Saldivar told us more - and we'll have that shortly, but first, Herrera explains what led to his detention yesterday evening:
Delroy Herrera - KHMH Whistleblower "So, I called in on the KREM talk show, and I spoke to Mose informing him of the situation. I quoted a document that I had on hand. My wife called me and said that police officers were at the house. She said that they had a warrant to confiscate documents and other stuff. After I got the house, I asked them what they were confiscating from my house. He asked me my name, and I told him that my name was Delroy Herrera. He slammed me into the refrigerator, and he wanted to put handcuffs on me. I told him, 'Listen, don't slam me against any refrigerator, whatever you want to take, you can.' They took the computer and the laptop."
Arthur Saldivar - Herrera's Attorney "Yesterday, he was released without charges at 7:30, and today he came back on request of the superintendent in charge of CIB, Mr. Dawson, to be present while his wife's computers were being examined to determine whether or not files from KHMH were on those computers. Upon attempting to leave the police station, Mr. Herrera was taken into custody, and now he's locked down again. The situation here is one that is certainly rife with abuse. The Government of Belize, I believe, is doing its utmost best to punish a person who they believe have information that is embarrassing to them. It exposes something of a very sinister nature on the part of the Government because it goes beyond KHMH at this point. The police were involved as of yesterday, and I believe that all of this arose from phone calls made to KREM Radio on the WUB talkshow."
Jules Vasquez "So essentially, you were arrested for calling into a talkshow."
Delroy Herrera "Well, I was basically arrested for freedom of speech, not for just calling into the talkshow. That was freedom of speech; I called the talkshow, and I got arrested for that. I guess that we have to think now what we are doing."
Jules Vasquez "What they are claiming is that you broke into the server, and you stole - they're saying - 30,000 files."
Delroy Herrera "Jules, we used to use jump drives and so forth at KHMH, and Carlos decided that jump drives are no more assets to KHMH and so forth. So they had decided to create folders and so forth each department, and the folders are there to have access to them and so forth. Upon my looking and trying to figure out what is going on with this -"
Jules Vasquez "So you had access to all these things? You didn't break into a-"
Delroy Herrera "I didn't break into anything. This was on the server, you don't use any jump drive. If you want to save, you go back, click-"
Jules Vasquez "Open access."
Delroy Herrera "Open access to everybody, I didn't break into anything. I didn't have any password to any server or anything like that."
Jules Vasquez "Okay, so now they are saying that you stole 30,000 files. Did you unlawfully acquire 30,000 files?"
Delroy Herrera "No, I didn't unlawfully acquire files. The files were there to be used, and I was doing my own investigation on this company, Skill Solutions. And while going through the documents, I decided, 'You know what?' Because they've always been telling us CYA. For all of you don't know what CYA means, it's cover your own... and I decided to cover my ... by citing documents, I can come back and say, 'See, this was what was happening here. This is what you paid for this item at this raised prices.' Or whatever the case may be."
Jules Vasquez "Now, essentially you are being - you spent two days in the station. Your wife has gone through all kinds of heartache because you face arrest last night; you face arrest again today, essentially because you are a whistleblower."
Delroy Herrera "That's not our culture in Belize, to be a whistleblower. Once you are a whistleblower, it tends to be that you're deem a threat to something. I'm not really a threat; I'm just letting people know what is going on with their tax-paying dollars. Do you understand what I am coming from?"
Jules Vasquez "Delroy, are afraid going into Christmas weekend that you might face arrest?"
Delroy Herrera "Jules, the way I see it is that every time I open my mouth, I will be arrested. So, what they are trying to do is to keep on arresting me, and I will wake up and realize that if I don't want to spend a next hours here, I need to relax myself."
Jules Vasquez "Will you be intimidated by that?"
Delroy Herrera "I will not be intimidated by that."
Arthur Saldivar "It exposes the fact that whatever he has is of such import and concern to the Government, that they would take out all the stops, go the whole nine, to seek to silence him."
Delroy Herrera "You guys terminated me unfairly, so you gave me a voice. Now, you are detaining me each and everyday unfairly. Now, you're fueling my fight."
And that fight is being waged with documentary evidence. He discussed one particularly eye-brow-raising piece with us today:
Delroy Herrera "We sent our first purchase-order to Skills Solutions. When we sent the first purchase-order, the purchases did not come in completeness. It's like you are paying for 100 pairs of shoes; you receive 18 pairs of shoes, but the Director wants us to put in the 100 pairs of shoes. I started to question that, so I started to do my own little investigation on certain little things that are going on. I went on Google Maps, pulled up the 6710 12th South Street, Pembroke Pine, and it appeared to be a bungalow house in a residential area. So I brought it to the attention of the clerk, the President Clerk. I told him they are 'messing around' because it was there that all the money was going. We were paying for an item $245 US that we could have gotten locally for $225. Come on, we need to stop playing around."
We tried to reach the KHMH for comment yesterday but their public relations person did not respond to our requests for information.
We did however get a call from a Crown Counsel in the Solicitor General's office cautioning us that this is a "legal and police matter" and we would get into, quote "hot water" if we pressed on with publishing any information from the Herrera files.
Herrera's hard drive has over ten thousand files - he says none of them are patient files - but many of them do raise serious questions.
Again, there is no comment forthcoming from the KHMH - and we could not reach financial controller Carlos Perrera by phone today.
Tonight Delroy Herrera's Desktop Computer remains in police custody. The hard drive - we have been assured - has been copied to various portable media.
And, before we close off on this story for tonight, an important backdrop to the entire episode is that first, Herrera was terminated in September. At that point he went to seek intercession from various high level functionaries in the UDP. That is because he is known as a UDP supporter. He told them he would rather not release the information - if the terms of his departure from the KHMH were cleared up - so that it would not seem he was fired for fighting.
That didn't work out, which brings us to where we are now...
Man says he is being chastised for exposing KHMH operations
A few days before Christmas, on December 22 , KHMH whistleblower Delroy Herrera was arrested for disseminating information to various media houses. That information is believed to have come from over ten thousand documents detailing various violations of procedure by top notch employees at the hospital. Herrera is a former store clerk at the hospital and it is alleged that Herrera gained unlawful access to the KHMH server because he was not privy to those documents as a store clerk. Police had also confiscated a laptop and desktop computer from his home at the time of the arrest. Now Herrera is trying to get back his computers. Herrera’s attorney is Arthur Saldivar.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney at Law Well Mr. Herrera as you may have appreciated, was exercising his constitutional right to free speech and doing his duty as a citizen to shed light on and expose wrong doings and corruption that was taking place at the KHMH at the area where medicine and supplies were being purchased.
Saldivar said that he believes his client is being victimized. Saldivar also said that his client had informed members of the United Democratic Party of what was taking place in the KHMH before he blew the whistle publicly.
Arthur Saldivar A law enforcement apparatus was set upon Mr. Herrera like a pit-bull so to speak, to punish, harass and seek to silence this upstanding citizen who has had no contact with the law in any illegal way before; no reason for the law to go to his home. Not only did the law enforcement people go to Mr. Herrera’s home, but they kicked his door down, slammed him upon the refrigerator and subjected him to the indignity of blatant abuse in the presence of his family, his wife and children. This is not what being a citizen in a democratic and free country should be. So certainly the Government of Belize must be chastised and criticized in the strongest possible way and reprimanded by the citizens for this kind of behavior, because if it can be done to Mr. Herrera, it can be done to any one of us as citizens of this country and this is not the kind of behavior that the government of a free nation ought to be operating in.
We are made to understand that Herrera, along with his attorney, will have a press conference soon after the New Year, where they are expected to release more information on the happenings at KHMH.
KHMH welcomes audit; Attorney says millions wasted
The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) went through a very public hearing during 2009’s Commission of Inquiry that analyzed the procedures used to determine how medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are procured by the KHMH. But recent allegations by a former employee have revived old claims of misappropriation. That individual was consequently arrested and released by the police. And before it becomes another case of history repeating itself, the administration is now making its records accessible for inspection. A press release sent late this evening by the KHMH says “It is on this platform of transparency that the KHMH authority is prepared now, as it has been in the past, to withstand scrutiny of its affairs. The Administration is therefore inviting the Auditor General and the Contractor General’s Office, as well as any other authority the Government of Belize may see fit, to launch full investigations into the management of the financial and material resources of the hospital. If any impropriety is uncovered as a result, firm and appropriate action will be taken against any implicated individuals.” But ten thousand files are already floating in cyberspace and some of them have reached Arthur Saldivar, the attorney for Delroy Hererra. Saldivar alleges that millions have been lost and he and his client will make full disclosure of their case in the coming weeks.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for Delroy Herrera
“The situation of corruption there has escalated beyond imagination. As a result, the documentation that we have of wrongdoing is now being quantified. We are almost complete with that process. Basically we are looking of upwards of millions of dollars in relation to the losses to the government and the siphoning of funds that have gone on there. We are basically now seeking to push for a senate hearing here—something that will be unprecedented for Belize as the present provisions does not allow for such, but I believe that considering the gravity of the situation and the definite public interest in what goes on at the KHMH; we are talking about one of the premiere if not the premiere health care facilities in the country that caters to the general public especially the poor. It is incumbent upon the government to sanction such a hearing, to get to the bottom of what went on and bring those that are responsible to justice. We already have heard that a sitting minister of government had knowledge this situation as early as the 9th of September and nothing came about. We have heard that the present secretary general of the U.D.P. had knowledge of this situation since the 9th of September and nothing was done to the wrongdoers. However, we know that the police was set upon Mr. Herrera like pit bulls and they responded in kind to lock down Mister Herrera against his constitutional rights twice.”
“When you say millions of dollars siphoned off, what way was this done? I am sure this wasn’t something the board has approved of since they said that they did a lot to take out the middle men in many of these transactions.”
“Well in fact certain board members were informed of what was going on. I don’t believe that the board can now claim ignorance. Certainly, I can’t recall the name on hand, but all these will be forthcoming in the New Year. Right after the holidays, we should be in the position to make a full, frank disclosure.”
The administration of the KHMH insists that Delroy Herrera has breached its records and exposed correspondences that include private patient matters, and thus compromises confidentiality of delicate and personal matters. The hospital administration will boost the security of its computer network and will use legal means to ensure accountability if breaches do occur.
Former KMHM Store Clerk Delroy Herrera made headlines last week after he came out as a whistleblower, citing irregularities at the KHMH. Earlier this year, that institution fired him for fighting - a charge which he disputes.
But now Herrera is fighting back with an extraordinary cache of documents - over ten thousand files which delve deep into the hospital's inner workings and internal processes.
We've been dogging them for a statement for over a week now - and finally today, the national referral hospital issued a statement.
It is grandly entitled "Transparency And Good Practice At The KHMH" and says, quote, "the present administration has invested considerable time and resources in developing good relations and garnering support from local and foreign benefactors….These…relationships (have resulted in) tangible improvements, (the product of) trust, good management, transparency and good fiduciary practice."
And having said all that, the statement boldly adds that "the KHMH authority is prepared now, as it has been in the past, to withstand scrutiny of its affairs."
And how will they do that?
Well, the statement says that quote, "The Administration is therefore inviting the Auditor General and the Contractor General's Office, as well as any other authority the Government of Belize may see fit, to launch full investigations into the management of the financial and material resources of the hospital. If any impropriety is uncovered as a result, firm and appropriate action will be taken against any implicated individuals." End quote.
And while that speaks to willingness to endure scrutiny, what about Herraera and all those files.
Well, the statement says that, quote, "the KHMH has discovered that the breach of its records by Mr. Delroy Herrera has been extended to a great number of correspondences that include private patient matters, and such breach compromises the confidentiality of these delicate and personal matters and the rights to privacy of our patients."
It adds that, quote, "The KHMH is presently taking every effort to strengthen the security of our computer network to avoid future breaches and will further use all legal means to ensure that the individual responsible for such breach is held accountable." That's the end of the statement - which defends the conduct and integrity of the institution.
But, it does not directly address the specific claims made by the whistle blower thus far, and neither does it suddenly silence him.
For his part, Herrera has said his files do not include patient files. His computer remains in the custody of police this evening, but, we are told, other copies exist.
Tonight, the battle lines have been drawn between the administration of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) and its former employee, Delroy Herrera, a store clerk terminated in September who has since stepped forward with allegations of continued violations 20 months after a Commission of Inquiry was called to investigate the hospital’s procurement procedures for pharmaceutical, medical and other supplies following public complaints from the Belize Medical and Dental Union (BMDU).
Herrera alleges, by means of documents he has procured, that senior employees and administrators of the KHMH continue to violate the hospital’s regulations on procurement by dealing with a certain U.S.-based company, resulting in significant excesses in expenditure.
Late this evening, KHMH officials, through a release, once again rebutted Herrera’s allegations, and said that “It is on this platform of transparency that the KHMH authority is prepared now, as it has been in the past, to withstand scrutiny of its affairs. The Administration is therefore inviting the Auditor General and the Contractor General’s Office, as well as any other authority the Government of Belize may see fit, to launch full investigations into the management of the financial and material resources of the hospital. If any impropriety is uncovered as a result, firm and appropriate action will be taken against any implicated individuals.”
The above was probably in response to a declaration from Herrera yesterday, Wednesday, that he was holding a press conference at an unnamed date to discuss the issues.
We reported last week at press time that Herrera (we did not release his name at that time as he had not, and so far has not, been charged with any offence) had just been released from police custody; officers were still holding computer hardware and equipment belonging to his wife and intended to go over it the next day.
Herrera had been detained by police who visited his residence following a phone call to the Wake Up Belize Morning Vibes Show on KREM RadioandKREM TV, on Thursday, December 22, in which Herrera publicly revealed the contents of an internal memo written in March of 2010 by Director of Operations Angela Wade.
In that internal communication, Wade accuses Director of Finance, Carlos Perrera, of favoring staff members from his native Orange Walk with undeserved promotions and being “left to do what he pleases… and cause conflicts.”
On Friday, December 23, Herrera returned to the police station along with retained attorney Arthur Saldivar to witness the police’s search of the computers, to see if the police could find any stray files from the hospital. He was allegedly locked down again after trying to leave the station, but it was not made clear under what circumstances this took place, and he was eventually released.
The hospital has consistently denied any alleged wrongdoing and accused its former employee of “stealing” between some 10 – 30,000 electronic document files from the hospital’s internal server, allegedly including confidential patient records, that he had no authority to access.
Herrera, in turn, has maintained that he did not steal anything, as the files were stored in open access on the server, and he is therefore not guilty of theft, robbery or handling stolen goods as those offences are defined under the Criminal Code, Cap. 101, Laws of Belize.
Furthermore, he denied that any patient files are among the records, which he has reportedly already delivered to the Independent and Reporter newspapers and the news departments of Channel 5 and 7 Television. The Amandala newspaper was not included in Herrera’s initial generosity, though when we spoke with him tonight he indicated that he was prepared to issue the files he has to us.
The Reporter published some of the material three weeks ago and has since been asked to retract and apologize for the story, which it has not done to date; KHMH officials have threatened a lawsuit.
Channel 7 reported on Friday that it has been told to refrain from pursuing the “legal and police matter,” lest it get “into hot water,” but publicly refused to follow that “advice.”
In the KHMH’s press release sent this evening, Thursday, titled “Transparency and Good Practice at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH),” it claims a “platform of transparency” based on cultivating its support and relations with its “local and foreign benefactors” who have offered their assistance in improvement of services “on the basis of trust, good management, transparency and good fiduciary practice.”
Turning to its former employee, mentioned for the first time by name, the KHMH alleges that Herrera’s “breach of [the hospital’s] records” – a noticeable downgrade from the previous characterizations of stealing – “has been extended to a great number of correspondences that include private patient matters,” going on to allege that his so doing “compromises the confidentiality of these delicate and personal matters…the rights to privacy of our patients.”
It again mentions possible legal action against Herrera, to “ensure that the individual responsible for such breach” (meaning Herrera and/or possibly his accomplices, if any) “is held accountable.”
For his part, speaking for the first time with Amandala, Herrera declined comment on the KHMH’s strongly worded statement. Tonight, he told us only that he and Saldivar have planned a press conference for “shortly after the New Year” and promised one-on-one interviews at that time. He did confirm that he has not had any further run-ins with police since Friday, and that he has not gotten back his computer equipment, though only one of the computers had KHMH-related files on it.
Saldivar told the television stations on Friday, December 23, and us today, after confirming the planned press conference, that the documents are presently being “reviewed.”
There was no indication of how Herrera first learned of the alleged misappropriations or how long he had been gathering information, though he mentioned in his television interviews that Perrera had issued a directive for employees not to use “jump drives,” or flash drives, and to save all documents directly onto the server.
Herrera was a participant in the 2009 KHMH Commission of Inquiry, and testified at that time, as acting supplies manager, of managerial interference in the record-keeping of his department that would lead to excess buying from Central Medical Stores (CMS).
That inquiry ended with specific recommendations to improve the hospital’s accountability in that regard, with some senior employees being recommended to repay lost money.
KHMH whistleblower Delroy Herrera has gotten the attention of the very highest office in the land - and the Prime Minister has asked the Auditor General Dorothy Bradley and her office to investigate the affairs of the KHMH.
And a part of that means meeting with Delroy Herrera, the source of the documents, which purport to expose irregular practices at the national referral hospital.
Their meeting was held today at the conference room of the sales Tax Department and Hererra told us he is satisfied with how it went:..
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "Well the purpose of the meeting was just to inform me that proper and fair process of this investigation will take place and update on what will basically take place after the next coming weeks and so forth."
Jules Vasquez "So did you meet with the auditor general herself?"
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "Yes, Yes"
Jules Vasquez "So are you convinced that a full and fair investigation will now proceed?"
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "Jules, from what they have explained to me I am now confident that a full and fair and proper investigation will proceed."
Jules Vasquez "Have you apprized them of the information you have, which points to irregularities?"
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "Yes a portion."
Jules Vasquez "Are you able to say what portion? We've seen volumes of documents."
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "Well the portion with the purchase orders and the invoices."
Jules Vasquez "You mean with Skilled Solutions?"
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "Correct."
Jules Vasquez "Now, have they indicated if the discrepancies that you have pointed out between what is on the purchase order and what is on the invoice, have they indicated that is indeed an eyebrow raising or worthy of review?"
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "They are going over it right now and they will get back, and probably they will have their own eyebrow raising after what I will explain to them about these purchase orders and invoices."
Jules Vasquez "Have you offered to act as a road map for them for the huge volume of files that you have? They're over ten thousand files."
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "250 percent Jules 250 present I have acted and will continue act as a road map."
Jules Vasquez "Is this a satisfactory stage for you?"
Delroy Herrera, KHMH Whistleblower "Yes it is a start, it is a satisfactory start"
No follow up meeting with Herrera has been scheduled at this time.