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August 03
10:00 2019

Saturday, 03 August 2019

A source at the Ministry of Health has informed the Reporter that neither CEO George Gough nor Minister of Health Pablo Marin have any plans to issue a release explaining or clarifying the $1.67M mess which has erupted this past week. The Reporter has made attempts to contact both men all week, through their cell phones and through the Ministry, with no success.

The latest controversy revolves around a $1.67M contract for the construction of a Central Stores Building awarded to Joehann Construction, a company owned by the brother of Minister of Works Rene Montero. The money for the contract was expressly sourced as a ‘grant’ from NHI reserves, controlled by the SSB and governed by regulations which should strictly regulate access to and use of those funds.

Both men, Gough and Marin, do have some explaining to do, after a Memo from the Ministry of Finance approving the awarding of the contract to Joehann Construction was leaked to the media. Because while the Ministry of Health is pointing to NHI reserves as the funding source, nobody in the position to authorize the use of those funds knew.

At an event on Friday, CEO of the SSB, Dr. Colin Young, explained that “to date, the SSB has not received any proposal, any application, any request whatsoever from the Ministry of Health regarding the Medical Stores facility. We heard about that about the same time you did as it relates to that.”

Young joined the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hon. Dean Barrow who in an interview with the Reporter earlier this week was audibly upset by the revelations. Barrow repeatedly disavowed knowledge of the proposed appropriation of the NHI funds and told the Reporter that we needed to talk to the Ministry of Health to get the answers we needed, since he knew nothing about it until it was leaked. Financial Secretary Joe Waight, point man in the Finance Ministry, said the same when asked by the media on Friday.

“It was never our – it shouldn’t be construed or intended or – it’s not our place to give, or to decide on the use of Social Security money. The Prime Minister, I think, basically said pretty much the same thing, and chipped in that in his view, it should not be – the Ministry should not approach the Social Security Board. So, that should put an end to that story,” Waight stated clearly.

SSB CEO Colin Young said much the same, telling media that “I can’t speak for them (the Board) but I guess you saw also the guidance in the PM’s letter and as

I said if they were to make such a request it will then have to go to our Board. Our board will have absolutely no option but to apply the legal requirements that are needed to even consider such a request.”

The Reporter will keep following this story, and will have a full report in this week’s newspaper.

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