The stench coming from the MOH this week reeks significantly more than the New River in Orange Walk. It is absurd that the Minister of Health by his own admission needed 11 years in office to realize that the central medical stores is in a low lying area and needs to be in Belmopan. The MOH apparently only just now needs to have their building to be more cost effective. The epiphany came only after all the Petro-Caribe monies were spent on tacos, outings, and even Mother’s Day Cheer. We have it on good authority that even the sister and nieces of the gentleman benefitted from the latter. It is very unfortunate that 11 years as Minister of Health Pablo Marin remains clueless as to procedures, policy and even the legislature governing the different organizations he must work with in the best interest of Belizeans.
For instance, he claims that there is $3M in reserve funds at NHI. According to the last audited financials available for 2017 NHI needs 1.5M per month to operate, currently then NHI has two months operating costs in reserve. The 2017 Actuarial Review of NHI Fund specifically states that the minimum NHI must have in those reserves is six months operating costs or 9M. In addition as pointed out by our Party Leader the law does not allow for the NHI reserves to be used other than to roll out additional coverage or to pay for current operational costs. If the Minister was indeed unaware of this, it is quite unbelievable that the current CEO in the MOH, who was also recently the Chairman of NHI did not know.
The PM alleges no knowledge of the entire debacle. The Minister of Health says that no project proposal was handed in to Ministry of Finance and that there were only unofficial inquires but that the PM knew. However, a memorandum signed by Artemio Osorio, the sacrificial lamb, refers to a memo from the Ministry of Health dated 9th of July 2019 which contained accompanying evaluation, report, and recommendation.
It is clear that indeed there was paperwork submitted and indeed it seemed a fait accompli and final instructions were given as to the contract. Arguing that since no proposals were handed in to the SSB, or Ministry of Finance for consideration of the project is the reason why suddenly only the Minister of Health seems to know about his pie in the sky dream seems like a desperate attempt at damage control. It seems that the cookie monsters were caught with their hands in the cookie jar once again.
The stage was set for this hot mess and many others when we ceased to have a Contractor General in name and in fact. Godwin Arzu had failed to file 6 consecutive annual reports during his entire tenure as Contractor General. This was brought to light by the PUP and thus the GOB had no alternative but to oust him. The office has remained conveniently vacant since then. Instead the PM through the passing of the Statutory Instrument #16 of 2018 published in Government Gazette of March 24, 2018 amended the law to allow Accounting Officers or CEOs to sign contracts on behalf of GOB.
As it stands now CEOs have the authority to make verbal contracts for works and services under $10,000. They can also sign for written contracts up to $50,000. Tenders must be invited for contracts exceeding $50,000. It is this Limiting Tendering Procedure that is used to circumvent the checks and balances that must exist in order to prevent corruption. In this way tenders are only invited from suppliers they wish to give the contracts to. Far from brandishing a machete, the PM looks like he is paving the way to make it easier for his little monsters to operate with complete impunity. Belizeans be wary and be watchful!