Sep 19, 2020 News
– Calls facility a cesspool for corruption
By Sueann Wickham
Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony has revealed that contractors of the Ocean View Infectious Disease Centre at Liliendaal were being overpaid millions of dollars, calling the facility a cesspool for corruption.
The disclosure was made in Anthony’s 2020 Budget presentation on Thursday as he described the state in which the previous coalition government left Guyana’s health sector and their management of the ongoing pandemic. Anthony stated that eight contractors were hired on June 16, 2020, to do works on the facility, and on that very day certification and valuation of work were done for each contractor. This valuation assessed 67 percent to 90 percent of the work completed among contractors.
The Minister emphasized that payments were hurriedly made to these contractors. It was discovered that the contractors received their payments even days before the accounting officer signed and certified their vouchers – something that is very questionable.
“There was no evidence of any of the contractors submitting any performance bonds or guarantee. There were significant overpayments on the contract,” Anthony said.
Further, he revealed that in one case, there was an overpayment of $70 million to one contractor, while another received an overpayment of $14.7 million as an advance to install an elevator. The elevator is yet to be installed according to Anthony.
Anthony claimed that the coalition government would have fooled the general public into thinking that they had a comprehensive plan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and this was evidenced by the broken health care system they left behind.
Following the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) projection of 20,000 COVID-19 cases emerging in Guyana, the Ocean View Hotel was selected to be turned into an Infectious Disease Centre to serve which would serve as an incubation, isolation, and quarantine facility for the COVID-19 patients. The $1.6 billion facility is yet to be fully opened.
In his presentation, the minister questioned how it is that the former President David Granger did not know the hospital was a “shell” when he declared it opened on July 30. He referenced the Auditor General’s preliminary report that deemed the facility to be inoperable and added that at the time of that report, electricity, and back-up generator works were still to be conducted. Elevators were to be installed as well as medical glass and interior finishing works are still in progress. The facility was also lacking proper electricity, sewage systems, medical equipment, and staff.
He also stated that the 197 beds that the coalition said the facility would have were not there when the new administration took office. Anthony said that by now, the facility should have had an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), but upon visiting the hospital, there was just a small space resembling an ICU.
The building is now being used as an isolation facility for COVID-19 patients transferred from the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). The Ministry of Health has since procured equipment for the facility and has provided staff to manage the patients currently being housed there.
Additionally, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill recently announced that the government has been forced to spend an additional $790 million to make the facility fully operational. Edghill had stated that the facility was “beautifully painted” but it was lacking the necessary amenities to handle infectious diseases like the novel coronavirus.
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