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Forensic Audit On Health Contracts

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

A FORENSIC audit will be conducted on contracts issued by the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) under the former Christie administration, with concerns agreements worth millions of dollars were issued “illegally” and “abnormally”.

According to well-placed sources, what is most troubling for officials is the manner in which Family Island mini hospital and clinic contracts were awarded by the previous government.

Accounting firms were yesterday invited to submit proposals, via advertisements in the local dailies to carry out the audit, which could take months to complete.

Insisting in an interview this audit is not a “witch hunt”, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said the contracts for numerous facilities in the out islands are proverbially a “shot to the head” of the PHA and public health in the country because of the funding needed to satisfy what is now owed to contractors. 

Under the former government, PHA contracts worth $53,288,112.27 were issued to various companies for construction related work, public health related upgrades and equipment. Of this alarming figure, money totalling $12,874,117.85 was paid to vendors, leaving a balance of $40,413,994.32 outstanding.

Dr Sands said: “The real question that has to be answered particularly when there seems to be a disconnect between the known fiscal reality of the Public Hospitals Authority and contracts that bind the Public Hospitals Authority outside of the ordinary business of the PHA and which prevents it from carrying out its mandate.

“You have to look critically at the decision making process to be certain that there were appropriate and valid and reasonable basis for the determination and the decisions made and you want to know whether there was anything untoward in that process.”

Asked whether the contracts were binding with no way to free the government from the obligation, he said: “The question is if you are bound to a contract that you are unable to pay or if servicing that contract prevents you from providing an essential service that you are mandated to provide by the Public Hospitals Authority Act, then is it indeed a valid contract?

“If the contract says I must cut my throat or shoot myself in the head, which this basically does then am I bound to do that?”

“Right now we are challenged to provide HIV medications, antiretroviral medications for HIV infected Bahamians. Right now we are challenged with providing reagents for diagnostic tests for sick Bahamians and this is in large part because funds have had to be expended to make good on commitments that should have never been made,” he continued.

Dr Sands said while there is a Cabinet conclusion giving the nod for the contracts it doe not mean the agreements were legal.

“Again this basically comes down to a question of whether or not these contracts were appropriate and legal. Whether there was any abnormality or illegality involved and that forensic audit means that you’ve got to dot every I and cross every T. Was it done illegally or abnormally?

“This is not a witch hunt. This is ensuring that the interests of the Bahamian public is protected, but if you tell me that I am now obliged to spend and I have used this example repeatedly more than $10m of PHA money for new construction in Cat Island where there are 1,200 people give or take and that means that I don’t have the money available to provide a decent and reasonable emergency room where the entire Bahamas population has to be served, then there is something implicitly and intrinsically wrong with that decision.

“So yes there is a Cabinet conclusion that directed the Public Hospitals Authority, its board and its managing director to do certain things, but that doesn’t mean because the Cabinet directed it to be so that it is legal.”

Of the contracts issued, Dr Sands has previously voiced issues with those for Cat Island and one proposed facility in Eleuthera.

Earlier this month, Dr Sands accused the former Progressive Liberal Party government of going forward with the $6.6m upgrade to the Smith’s Bay Clinic in Cat Island despite a nearly 40 per cent decline in visits to clinics on that island in the past decade.

Dr Sands at the time at Parliament, insisted the decision did not follow the advice of the ministry’s technical team, and projections show the expensive build-out of the clinic would have served an average five patients per day.

He has also suggested $535,348.77 paid to Carey’s Construction for work on a new clinic at Palmetto Point, Eleuthera will be wasted as the government does not plan to continue work at the existing site.

Carey’s Construction was awarded a contract worth $929,875 under the previous Christie administration for work at the site where the mini-hospital was to be constructed.

However, according to photographs posted to the minister’s Facebook account, the contractor got no further than cutting into an existing hill at Palmetto Point, which created a cleared and smoothed off space presumably to place the clinic.

The facility was to cost a whopping $27m and has been called by the minister “the greatest of travesties” committed by the former government

Dr Sands has said the government is considering acquiring an existing building on the island to suit the needs of the community.

Comments

TalRussell 7 months ago

Comrade Dr. Duane already sealed leadership deal once fate PM has been dealt with.... and millions natives asking - what's takin' reds so long?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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birdiestrachan 7 months ago

doc see if you all can do an audit on Oban and the shanty towns. You all will not dare.

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OMG 7 months ago

Weeks and weeks of work went into cutting a flat area for the so called hospital in Palmetto Point on land purchased from whom? There is a mountain of curry that could be sold . Workers house located near to Governors Harbour could be converted but of course the instigators of this so called hospital in Palmetto Point were obviously more interested in what friends could benefit from rather than the reality of this costly venture. The ground breakings alone could have gone a long way to renovating an existing building. Those in.volved should be named, shamed and prosecuted

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realitycheck242 7 months ago

The land for the Palmetto point clinic was purchased from a former minister in the pindling cabinet hint hint initials P B a now Rev in eleuthera

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bogart 7 months ago

Excellent to be having the forensic audits. Keep up the good work Doc Sands.

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sheeprunner12 7 months ago

And what is going to happen once we pay millions for these forensic audit reports???????

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SP 7 months ago

A FORENSIC audit of the peoples' natural resources is what we really need!

How and who authorized control of the peoples' natural resources to a handful of greedy white Bahamian pirate families?

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hrysippus 7 months ago

SP, you are a disgusting racist who seeks to stir up hatred and division in our country. If I am wrong then please name these white Bahamian families, otherwise go away and sit small.

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bogart 7 months ago

sheepr....in running a 9 billion dollar business normal regular audits, balance and checks, means of recourse to correct wrongs MUST be in place otherwise we get to be like the Mugabe country. From revelations it seems this was not so in cases revealed incurring and wasting hundreds of millionns of vital dollars more. Rather to spend millions to save hundreds of millions and account for it properly than to spends hundreds of millions and save audits and accountability. While everyone seems to be impatient for justice to calm the fears that these types of wrongs will never happen again. Ie if the cost overruns for the waste plant not finished and the half mountain dug up an no clinic not going nowhere money redirected then LongIsland would havr done had those 19m water system.

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sheeprunner12 7 months ago

Agreed ........ meanwhile we are playing footsie with Frank Smith (Baby Snake)

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birdiestrachan 7 months ago

Frank Smith a figment of you all imagination .is nothing compared to OBAN pay attention to that a 45 year contract.

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sheeprunner12 7 months ago

When OBAN gets up and running and our well qualified Bahamians come back home and get top jobs and others are able to get contracts and you see 3000 direct and indirect jobs created from OBAN by 2020, you will change your tone ...... the refinery technology today is not what used to be when BORCO was created ........ Leave this OBAN dead story alone.

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ThisIsOurs 7 months ago

You think BP used that argument?

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bogart 7 months ago

Given the historic 35 to 4 slate of MP to the 4 as the Opposition, and the reasons why that turned out to be so, every chance of scary rebuttal seems to be used when it need not be so. Every contract is a give and take and advantages for all parties and built in checks and balances. We haven yet reached the stage again when pirates ruled and fleeced the investors, nor is it likely the people will ever again allow it.

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DaGoobs 7 months ago

You know none of these audits will mean anything unless the Govt. passes laws regarding the tendering process and the granting of contracts. They need to be published. The Auditor General needs to publish annual reports on the performance and expenditure on government contracts. There needs to be a statutory code and regulations governing the conduct of the boards of statutory bodies, authorities, corporations, departments and ministries. Too much is spent in the name of governmental authorities with too little accounting and accountability for what is fine and what is spent. Breach the code and/or the regulations, then the board has committed a criminal offence liable to prosecution. Boards commit all sorts of heinous offences during their time in office but no one is prosecuted or held to account for their actions. That needs to change.

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