BELIZE CITY–A Special Audit Report of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), Belize’s premier public health facility, for the period July 2013 to July 2014, which was recently commissioned by Financial Secretary Joseph Waight and conducted by the Auditor General’s Office, has been sent to the Office of the Solicitor General for further assessment to determine whether there is a basis for possible criminal proceedings against those involved in questionable activity, a senior KHMH official said today.
The audit has revealed a list of financial irregularities in procedure, primarily surrounding the acquisition of two X-Ray units which were procured from Spring HK Holdings Ltd, which turned out to be a mystery Hong-Kong based company, by the then senior management of the hospital, reportedly without the knowledge of the Board of Governors. Today, Amandala was able to speak with the chair of the KHMH Board of Governors, Chandra Nisbet-Cansino, who told us that the KHMH board, which met to discuss the matter on December 11, is “disappointed” in the findings of the report.
She said, “They [the KHMH Board] were disappointed because they feel like a lot could have been done better [in terms of the procurement of the equipment], but like in most situations as these, we use it as an opportunity for improvement and change.”
“The report is quite lengthy, and so it would have been time-consuming to go through all the pages, therefore, the board members perused it in advance and a decision was made to forward it to a legal representative – I think we had decided on the Solicitor General for review to see if there are any legal implications of the report, and thereafter, we will proceed on the recommendations made by the Solicitor General”, Cansino informed us.
The comprehensive report, which is 77 pages long, 49 of which deal with the acquisition, procurement and payment of two X-ray units, one of which is a Siemens Luminos RF Classic X Ray Machine which, according to the internal audit in July of 2014, had been parked for 10 weeks because there were no official documents from SP Group, a local importer, and no verification [that] the parts shipped are accurate…”
It also said that the items were also shipped without proper documentation, without warranty, and without a list of specifications.
The SP Group is a local importer out of Orange Walk Town which normally sells furniture and other household items, but which acted, in this case, as an agent for the foreign seller for two X-ray machines, one of which was bought for approximately half a million dollars and was delivered six months ago, but is still not functional.
According to the audit, the other smaller unit had some problems, but the KHMH managed to get it working, and while the institution struggles with those practical matters, we understand that there is still a claim being made by the SP Group stating that the KHMH owes them money.
We were told that newly installed KHMH CEO, Dr. Adrian Coye, had been investigating the curious relationship between the hospital and the local and international suppliers named in the report, since there is a clear insinuation that monies may have been misappropriated in the dealings with the SP Group and the elusive Spring Holdings, which, the report said, happened to be a mere shell company with a fabricated address.
Nevertheless, the auditors went on to note that Spring Holdings continued to be a supplier of choice, and the KHMH reportedly paid them $187,539.24 in advance for items that weren’t delivered to the hospital at the time of the audit.
Although the audit cited that there were “uncertainties about the company’s physical location and the price paid for the X-Ray machines”, and former CEO Gary Longsworth reportedly told the auditors that it was not consistent with the policy of the KHMH to make full payments before items were received, he (Longsworth) asserted, in the report, that payments were still made because “the former Director of Financial services [Carlos Perera] circumvented his [Longsworth’s] office and instructed the approval of the payment.”
In any event, we understand, via the report, that neither Longsworth nor Perrera had the authority to enter into any financial arrangement with the SP Group, and while Cansino did not want to get into the specifics of the document, citing the Solicitor General’s evaluation, she told us that they are in the process of discussing proper payment arrangements with the principals of SP Group.
“Because we will forward the report for further review, I don’t want to go into the details of it; however, what I can say is that the CEO has met with the principals of SP Group. The main focus of the board and the CEO are the patients of KHMH; they are the number one priority for us, and what we want is that the X-Ray machine is functional for the purposes of serving the public, and so we have approached the principals of SP [Group] to live up to their side of the bargain in terms of where making the X-Ray machine functional is concerned, and then proceed with whatever pending payments we may have for them”, she mentioned.
Since former DFS Perera and former CEO Longsworth have been removed from the KHMH equation, so to speak, Cansino emphasized that the institution’s managers have made significant changes to their financial procedures and have put appropriate measures in place at the hospital since the audit came out.
“We continue to make those changes. Dr. Coye and the new Director of Financial Services have a very good plan for the [Finance] Department that we are executing at this time, and so, unfortunately, that happened, but fortunately, it’s an opportunity for us to improve, and I think that at this time, KHMH probably has the strongest management team that it has ever had”, she told us.
We understand that new KHMH CEO, Dr. Adrian Coye, plans to have the Luminos Classic assembled and put to productive use in the near future.