ST JOHN’S, Antigua – After being under lock and key for almost one year, an investigative review conducted into the administration and operations of the Central Board of Health (CBH) has been obtained by OBSERVER Media, revealing that the body has been operating outside the laws of the country.
The document was presented to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health on July 15, 2011, after a five-member team, headed by former civil servant Ivor Ford, completed an eight-week investigation.
Although the document has been ready for one year now, Ministry of Health officials and members of the investigative team refused to divulge its contents until the document was obtained by OBSERVER Media.
The investigators found that “the Central Board of Health has been operating outside the confines of the laws of Antigua & Barbuda” despite specific guidelines about how the body should be run.
“The Chief Health Inspector (CHI) was permitted to assume and exercise powers and authority which were never ascribed to him, but legally those of a duly constituted board,” another finding read in part.
The 35-page document also points a finger at the principal assistant secretary at CBH for apparently neglecting to perform her duties, thus allowing the chief health inspector to illegally involve himself in matters of administration and financial management.
The report contains 15 findings, one of which points to a communication problem between the chief health inspector and members of the general public due to poor interpersonal relationships.
One of the terms of reference given to the investigative review panel was to ascertain whether there are adequate and acceptable regulations and corresponding procedures in place with respect to contracts entered into between CBH and private contractors.
“There is no standardised, acceptable or transparent procedure in place for contracting services between CBH and private contractors,” the report found.
In addition, it pointed out that “a small cartel of private contractors are being permitted to unfairly reap the best from the CBH fatted calf.”
The panel, which also included Walton Edwards Senior Baliff, and Ministry of Health employees Cecelia James, Austin Joseph, and Jacintha Josiah-Chapman, also made a number of recommendations.
During the compilation of the report “review interrogations” were conducted with about 24 individuals to include top Ministry of Health workers to small contractors.
According to the report, Chief Health Inspector Lionel Michael was the only individual who chose not to be interrogated without the presence of an attorney.
In May 2011, Ford, a retired civil servant, was appointed to investigate certain matters at the Central Board of Health (CBH).
He was handed 11 terms of reference, the most conspicuous of which was for him to inquire into the awarding of contracts by CBH, whose fiscal allocations account for nearly a third of the Ministry’s entire annual budget.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)