Councillors of Region Six (East Berbice) have called for a probe by the state auditors into what they say is a clear-cut case of nepotism in Berbice.
According to councillors, the Regional Executive Officer (REO), Kim Williams-Stephens, as part of her job, has been approving payments for the Director of Health Services in Berbice, Jevaughn Stephens, who just happens to be her husband’s nephew.
“There is information coming out that in addition to what seems to be an incestuous relationship and the very visible acquisition of wealth by a number of persons, there are wrongdoings at the regional level when it comes to payments and awards of contracts,” one RDC councillor familiar with the situation said.
The REO sits as the Financial Officer of the Region and the Chairman of the Regional Tender Board. That by itself is not remarkable.
However, under the health services budget of the Region, tens of millions of dollars have been set aside for the purchase of drugs and supplies for state-run hospitals and health centres in East Berbice.
Under the system, all programme heads within the Region, inclusive of the Health Director, has to report to the REO.
The REO has a limit of $250,000, which she can approve without it having to be referred to the Tender Board.
“She controls and authorises everything. The conflict of interest immediately exists there because that is her husband’s nephew.”
According to a number of councillors, the issue has been raised on several levels but there are fears.
“Nobody wants to take on the REO. However, we have blatant cases of sole sourcing; cases where for one quote, somebody is being given a contract. It is sickening what is happening.
Everybody is seeing and very few have the courage to talk about it.”
It was alleged that at the health level, suppliers are approached directly and there are collusions.
“You want to hear laugh? Ask the auditors to check what we get at the hospital and what is on stock and you will see some funny things.”
With regards to infrastructural contracts, contractors are complaining bitterly about the abuse of variations on projects.
“So here is how one way it works. You are doing a road and need sand. You put in for more sand that you need and then deliver and use less. The profits are split. Everybody taking a piece…the contractor, the engineer, everybody!”
Kaieteur News was told that several councillors want to come out and talk.
“We have contractors who are willing to talk, too. Suppliers of goods will tell you they were not even aware that there are contracts,” a contractor from Corentyne said.
“We also know of information coming out from the departments about tenders which contractors are told. They know exactly what to bid. This Region is losing tens of millions of dollars a month because of cock-work and non-delivery or inflated prices. In all of these, the proper procurement system is not being followed in many cases.”
The source added that in many instances whereby supplies are purchased for the Region’s health sector, only a fraction is distributed to hospitals across Berbice and the majority is siphoned off.
“People will tell you which pharmacy is getting what.”
It was claimed that the key persons are handpicked for positions, including to overlook stores and deliveries.
“There is a connection; it’s a network. Everybody colludes with one another. You check it, every person working with …has a connection.”
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