Harmon says Govt cannot act on ‘innuendos and hearsay’ …as Inquiry is set up to probe procurement allegations at MoPH

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The Government has set up  a one-man board of inquiry to probe allegations of fraud within the procurement process at the Ministry of Health Public (MoPH) insisting that it cannot act on innuendos and hearsay.

Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Winston Cosbert being presented with the Terms of Reference (TORs) by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon
Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Winston Cosbert being presented with the Terms of Reference (TORs) by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

This newest inquiry launched by the State will be headed by Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Winston Cosbert, who was presented with the Terms of Reference (TORs) on Wednesday by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

Cosbert will be looking into the allegations of unauthorised disclosure of information, mismanagement and malpractices in the procurement of pharmaceuticals at the Public Health Ministry.

The move to launch the investigation was triggered by allegations of staffers of the Public Health Ministry passing inside information to bidders seeking lucrative drug procurement contracts.

During the handing over of the TORs, Minister Harmon said that Government eagerly awaits that Report and the findings, so that appropriate action can be taken.

The Board of Inquiry (BoI) will commence its work today (Thursday) and is expected to render its written report and findings to the Minister of State on or before November 30, 2016. The Inquiry is expected to take place at the Department of Public Service and at any other place in which the Commissioner deems fit.

The Board is expected to investigate, examine and report on the “procurement and management processes by which the Ministry of Public Health awards contracts for the procurement of pharmaceuticals, services and supplies to bidders;  whether there were unauthorised disclosure of any information on the procurement of pharmaceuticals by the staff of the Ministry of Public Health and the facts surrounding such unauthorised disclosure; the facts surrounding the allegation that Ms Kandasie Aaron, without prior consent from the Ministry of Public Health, divulged any information on the procurement of pharmaceuticals; to what extent this specific disclosure is an isolated incident and if not, does it represent a more general practice at the Ministry of Public Health.”

It is also expected to investigate the procedure which exists to identify and control the unauthorised disclosure of price sensitive information in the procurement of pharmaceuticals and how and when did the Ministry of Public Health become aware of these disclosures and what actions, if any, were taken by the Ministry.

After the investigation and findings, recommendations must be made for measures that could strengthen information management systems within the Ministry to improve the handling of protected information and deter any unauthorised disclosures; and remedial actions, or any other actions, against staff who are found to have acted improperly in the discharge of their public duties and those persons who have benefited from the actions of the public officials and for criminal prosecution or other actions, if any, against any such person found to have  been engaged in criminal or improper conduct.

This decision to establish a BoI comes just over a week after Public Health Minister Dr George Norton submitted the proposal at the last Cabinet meeting for a commission of inquiry to be launched.

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