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May 22, 2014

Audit of the Central Health Region show gross misuse of public funds

On August twenty-sixth 2013 the Auditor-General of Belize was notified that there were credible reports of misuse of public funds at the Central Health Region. Four days later an audit team commenced an investigation which concluded on October first, 2013. News Five has received a copy of the detailed audit report with recommendations. It is disturbing, to say the least, and points to blatant and unrestrained misuse, and even misappropriation, of public monies. Mike Rudon has the report and part one of what seems to be a clear case of corruption.

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Mike Rudon, Reporting

In early May, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Health Peter Allen sat at the head table for an awards ceremony at the Matron Roberts Polyclinic. At his side was a smiling Melinda Guerra. Guerra is the Central Health Regional Manager, and also the central figure in a damning audit report.

 

Peter Allen, C.E.O., Ministry of Health [File: May 2nd, 2014]

Peter Allen

“…Now obviously, naming somebody in a report is quite a different thing than finding somebody guilty of any wrongdoing. I have to say that I have known Melinda Guerra for probably more than twenty years but have never known her to be anything other than an outstanding public officer and an outstanding leader for this region.”

 

According to the Audit Report, that outstanding leader, Melinda Guerra –  “Submitted, approved and received the proceeds of four reimbursement claims which totaled three thousand four hundred and seven dollars and fifty cents for costs she claimed to have incurred in an official capacity.”

 

But Guerra never actually incurred those debts. The audit team states that in one instance, a “Reimbursement of five hundred dollars paid to the CHRM, Melinda Guerra, for purchase of food for CORE team meeting at SPP on second May 2013, when food was already provided and paid for from the Vote.” In another instance, Melinda Guerra is reimbursed one thousand nine hundred and seven dollars for out of pocket expenses incurred in pre-paying for a Glow Box, Gel and Powder Materials. Those supplies were never received. On another occasion, Guerra was reimbursed six hundred dollars because she said she pre-paid for four boxes of x-ray films for the San Pedro Polyclinic. Those films never reached their destination. The audit team also found another claim for reimbursement for food, when that food was already paid for.

Melinda Guerra

Like we stated, it’s a detailed report and we’re just skimming the surface. The audit team also states that Guerra knowingly “authorized the preparation and approval of twelve payments that totaled sixteen thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven dollars and ninety-nine cents, which misrepresented the service or item ordered, received and paid for by the CHR.”

 

In one instance detailed by the team, Guerra and her Finance Officer Judith Swift authorized Smartstream payments for repairs to a golf cart stationed at the San Pedro Polyclinic. The investigation proved that the payments were instead for the purchase of a new golf-cart. There were no supporting invoices. The report states that the payments were a blatant disregard of FO number three-six-six and the Government of Belize’s accounting practices.

 

And this is a good one. Melinda Guerra and her FO Judith Swift also picked up two Apple Ipads from Fultec Systems, but tricked government by claiming that the payments were for two hard drives.

 

The report states that in the first instance with the golf cart, the CHRM, Ms. Melinda Guerra and the FO, Judith Swift, both admitted that they knowingly crafted these payments in this manner in order to pay for a new Golf Cart.

 

Where the Apple Ipads were concerned, the report states that in interviews conducted with Guerra and Judith Swift they both confirmed that they knew that what was ordered and quoted in the Purchase Orders was not what was received by them.

 

And finally, for today at least, the report states that CHRM Melinda Guerra knowingly “authorized four prepayments which totaled fourteen thousand six hundred and eighty-two dollars, for goods and services that were not received as of the time of the investigation.”

 

On these occasions, Melinda Guerra authorized payments to one Lachman Tekchandani. He received eight hundred dollars for providing phone cards to rural health nurses. They never received those phone cards. Guerra authorized the payment of nine hundred and seventy five dollars for phone cards to the Emergency Operations Center Team. They never received those phone cards either.

 

The audit team took special notice of another transaction with Mr. Lachman Tekchandani. In March 2013 Guerra authorized a payment of five thousand dollars to Tekchandani for uniforms to be delivered at some undisclosed time in 2014.

 

The audit team states that it found that particular transaction highly irregular because, firstly,  it was a prepayment from public funds made in March 2013, for items to be provided by the vendor “sometime in 2014”; a direct contravention of Financial Order number three-seven-one (b), (f) and (g). And two… There was incomplete and improper information to support the alleged uniforms which were to be provided by the vendor.

 

There’s much more. In fact, we’re practically skimming over details which point to a sustained abuse of authority, not only by Guerra but by her Finance Officer Judith Swift. Tune on Friday, when we’ll tell you why the Matron Roberts Polyclinic’s NHI account is being used to pay for Melinda Guerra’s gym membership. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

Central Region Health Manager Melinda Guerra is the central figure in the report, but there is also special attention paid to other persons, including Finance Officer, Judith Swift; Matron Roberts Administrator, Alexy Rosado; and even Ministry of Health C.E.O., Peter Allen. As we said, tune in Friday for much more.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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4 Responses for “Audit of the Central Health Region show gross misuse of public funds”

  1. Timber says:

    Why haven’t they been arrested? Dig deeper, it’s more than this. You need a trained CPA or someone with extensive financial background. Call Cedric Flowers or Steve Duncan. This so-called CEO of Ministry of Health , who is so unknowledgeable in the running of his department and medical practice, (yes, I will challenge you any day that you have no clue of effective medicine, especially in the field of sterilization , public health, pathophysiology and genetics), hand picked her and they’re hiding more. Believe me, it goes to more than a few thousand dollars. Why hasn’t someone turned that info over to the police? Tekchandani should be investigated also to see if he was an innocent player in this scheme. I posted comments on a blog under either Contrreras’ or his daughter’s when this mess broke out with them. My comment was to the effect that I knew of an impending contract for KHMH and the outlying clinics for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals and I’ve seen the inferior and expired medication being provided to our population coming from India and other questionable sources. That tender should have been made public in March 2014. I bet it wasn’t. However, I’m asking Channel 5 to see if they can find out if the tender was ever made public and which one of these hustlers got the contract.

  2. CEO says:

    How many are surprised and or disappointed about this report?

    Well if you are like me it is just another “beautiful day in the neighborhood”.

    Sad!

  3. Administrator says:

    There is much more to the story concerning the San Pedro Poly Clinic and misappropriation of funds. The Clinic has a donation account that it receives $10000 in donation funds annually from the Medical University for accommodating its students during their practical rotation. Important to note is the fact that from this donation fund a total of $7000 CASH was given to Ms. Melinda Guerra by the administrator Owen Vellos as payment towards the purchase of a new golf cart. The transcript states that only $2000 dollars of this money was paid to Captain Shark’s for this golf cart and the remaining funds came from the government, SO WHERE IS THE OTHER $5000 cash that Melinda Guerra received???? More investigation needs to be done!!!!

  4. belizean@heart says:

    THEM F***&&G thifssssssss,while many parents are struggling when we go at the hospitals,and there are limited /cheaper medication given to us and we are told that we have to purchase the rest at the pharmacies? $%*(*) and them no have frigging shame mein,even the CEO/pablo marin? what can we expect from him/them and he keeps defending these tiefs like him,he is also involved thats’ why he have to defend them…so disappointing and SHAME ON MINISTER PABLO MARIN AND CEO,peter allen cause dem knowingly know the corruptionssssssss and dem cover it.

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