An investigation into the purchase of kitchen equipment for the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital and the Arima Rehabilitation Centre has found that the quotations valued at $154,000 were tampered with.
The investigative report dated February 21, 2013 also found that St Ann’s Hospital administrator Islaw Woods failed to comply with the established purchasing control system and rules governing the purchasing of goods and services.
According to the report, on December 11, 2012 MST Restaurant Design and Construction secured four purchase orders dated December 11, 2012 in the sum of $154,000 from the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA).
Specifications for the purchase of the kitchen equipment were
stated as follows:
Arima Rehabilitation Centre— purchase order 110710 for one range 36-inch Vulcan gas griddle with oven-$14,000 - and one convection oven LPG gas single deck- $30,000.
St Ann’s Hospital (Mental Health) — purchase order 110710 for one range 60-inch gas oven with ten open burners—$44,000 — and one convection oven gas double deck-$49,000. Purchase order 110709 valued at $17,000 was also made out for the purchase of heavy duty gas griddles.
Additionally, the report stated, an advance payment of $77,000 was made to begin the importation process of the kitchen equipment.
However, the acquisition of the kitchen items was stopped by executive management pending a full investigation after it was discovered that the quotations were tampered with.
“An initial assessment of the documentation supporting the purchase revealed that their appeared to have been tampering with the supporting quotations and other possible violations of the NWRHA financial policies and procedures governing the purchasing and contracting goods and services,” the report stated.
The matter was reported to NWRHA security services manager Solomon Sweeney by the general manager, Legal, Salisha Baksh and the report was submitted by Sweeney.
Only two items were received — the Vulcan heavy duty gas griddle for the St Ann’s Hospital and the convection oven for the Arima Rehabilitation Centre.
The discrepancies surrounding the procurement process were listed in a letter dated February 1, 2013 from St Ann’s logistics coordinator Wendy Ann Charles sent to the materials manager, Sean Manmohansingh.
The following discrepancies
* An employee of MST Restaurant Design and Construction falsely posed as a representative of NWRHA and secured quotes from Advance Commercial Equipment Ltd and Commercial Express Ltd for the purchase of the kitchen equipment
* The quotes valued at $154,000 were signed off by Woods.
* The cost of the kitchen equipment was above the spending limit of Woods and required a tendering process
It was also noted that no approval was granted to deviate from the purchase order that required a ten single burner stove.
However, the report stated that Woods took a decision to purchase two six burner stoves instead and informed the Comptroller of the Customs and Excise Division of the changes.
Under NWRHA regulations, only the chief executive officer and the general manager of finance are permitted to communicate with the Comptroller of the Customs and Excise Division.
The report further stated that Woods approved four blank completion certificates before the kitchen equipment was received.
Based on the findings the report concluded: “Ms Woods in her capacity as the St Ann’s Hospital administrator had a duty to be fully knowledgeable and compliant to the NWRHA established purchasing control system and rules governing the purchasing of goods and services. She was responsible to operate in accordance with the NWRHA established rules and policies and is ultimately accountable for fraudulent activities that occurred during this transaction.”
It was recommended that the finance department and internal audit department should implement a rigid system for the acceptance of quotations from suppliers.
“This will reduce the risk of allegiances and alliances being developed for personal gain between the logistics coordinator and a supplier or contractor. At present it is too simple for the logistics coordinator to liaise with a contractor or supplier to fix their bid prices in order to win a quotation,” the report stated.
The Sunday Express learned that following the report, Woods, along with two other employees were sent on a four-day public procurement law and practice course held by the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University.
The board is expected to meet later this month to discuss the findings of the report and the basis under which a new contract of employment was offered to Woods.
When contacted on Friday for comment on the report, Woods told the Sunday Express: “I cannot comment on that matter.”
Commenting briefly, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said last week he was concerned about the findings of the report.
“When situations like those occur there is a board to handle those matters. That board would have to take a decision to determine how they treat with that matter,” Khan said.
‘It may have been an oversight’
The approval of the quotations may have been an oversight, St Ann’s Hospital administrator Islaw Woods has said in her defence.
In her statement which formed part of the investigative report, she stated:
“All four purchase orders 110709, 110710, 110711 and 110712 is (sic) in sequence and the approval was done by all parties in a sequence therefore, the question is being asked why did senior management approve the listed purchase orders if there was a problem, which in turn approved a 50 per cent down payment to the supplier. I admit this could have been an oversight by all parties in all approval queues.”
With regard to the changes made to the order of the kitchen equipment Woods said she agreed to accept the six burner stove instead of the ten burner after she was informed there was no additional cost.
No mention was made as to who approved the variation of the order.
Woods also admitted to signing a blank completion certificate before the kitchen equipment was received