Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Case of Mac's Metalcraft and the Minister of Finance. Odete: "I did not know about this process."

Odete Viegas, Director General Dili Hospital.

Following on from Tempo Semanal's exclusive coverage of the possible KKN and conflict of interest case involving 1) the Minister of Finance, 2) the Ministry of Health and 3) Mac's Metalcraft owned by the Minister of Finance's husband.

On 23 November 2012, the Director General of the Dili Hospital, Odete da Silva Viegas, opened a bundle of documents sitting on her desk in front of theTempo Semanal journalist.  After having read the documents, the Director General of the Hospital gave an interview with Tempo Semanal regarding the process to supply medical equipment to the Guido Valadares National Hospital. She said  "the eighty beds that were supplied to us were never requested by us."
Equipment supplied by a company owned by Minister of Finance, under emergency funding mechanism approved by Minister Finance remains unused in Ministry Health warehouse.

Equipment supplied by a company owned by Minister of Finance, under emergency funding mechanism approved by Minister Finance remains unused in Ministry Health warehouse.

Equipment supplied by a company owned by Minister of Finance, under emergency funding mechanism approved by Minister Finance remains unused in Ministry Health warehouse.

Equipment supplied by a company owned by Minister of Finance, under emergency funding mechanism approved by Minister Finance remains unused in Ministry Health warehouse.

"We did not know anything about this process to buy beds and I had no knowledge regarding it.  Because this process had all been undertaken in procurement.  So only they know who the company that was the supplier was and what amounts of money were involved.  Normally we only make the requests, but the solutions and purchasing is not our responsibility," said Odete. 

Fortunately, the request letter with the reference number 130/Adm/HNGV/III/2012 from the Director General of the Hospital to the Vice Minister for Health Madalena Hanjan on 21 March 2012 was answered.  Because some state officials used this request letter by the Director General of the Hospital as a reason to allocate additional budget funds, which they had already prepared in February of 2012. 

What is more ironic is that the letter of request from Dr Odete did not request any of the equipment that were ultimately supplied by the company Mac's Metalcraft Pty Ltd.  Therefore, looking carefully at this process arouses suspicions of "collusion" at high level by members of the government.  This is because the letter from the Director of the Hospital requested needed haemodialisis equipment, and not was ultimately supplied by the company suspected of being owned by the husband of the Minister for Finance, Emilia Pires. 

The explanation in the request letter for the Director General of the Hospital detailed that in the month of January 2012 the Haemodialisis unit doctors and staff faced complications in providing treatment to patients suffering from conditions such as tuberculosis.  They also needed to avoid transmission of infections amongst the patients at the Guido Valadares National Hospital ("HNGV"), so the management of the Hospital proposed the urgent purchase of medical equipment.  But, in the process that followed the Vice Minister of Health also proposed a project that would benefit the Finance Minister's husband.

Responding to a question in relation to the purchase of 80 beds for the HNGV the Director General of HNGV Odete da Silva Viegas said, "We are using some at the moment but some beds we have stored in the warehouse. But we have no knowledge regarding the purchasing process for these beds, because the whole process was undertaken by procurement. Procurement would be the ones to know which company supplied the equipment and the amount involved," Odete told Tempo Semanal in her office last friday 23/11/2012.

According to Odete, normally they send off their requests but the solution and implementation of purchasing is not their responsibility.  So she herself was not aware which part of the budget was used to make the purchase of this equipment, because was not aware of the details of this process.  "The decision was made by Central Services, and the people at the top.  So, we just wait for what we asked to be delivered to us.  Sometimes we also have ideas to rectify certain things here at the hospital.  because of this we also need information.  But many times our requests are not carried out according to what we requested, and many times we have no knowledge of things done," Odete questioned the lack of consideration for the hospital staff.

Director General of the Hospital Odete tried to honestly clarify that she had no knowledge about this procurement case and that they only made a request.  because of this, she herself did not know which company supplied the equipment to HNGV.

The Head of the Medical equipment Management Unit, Abilio Afonso Brites said that until this day some of the equipment purchased was yet to be used and were stored at the HNGV.  "To this day these items have not yet been allocated to either the national hospital or the referal hospitals.  Because we are waiting for the Minister's written instructions, so these items are still stored in the hospital storage room, Abilio explained.

According to Abilio. the equipment supplied appears to be in accordance with the contract and of quality. But, that is not know because they are yet to be used.  The equipment included 100 electric operated beds, 20 ICU electric operated beds, 80 normal hospital beds, 100 patient tables and 4 patient lifters.

Tempo Semanal tried to interview the current Health Minister, Dr Sergios Lobo about this procurement process,  However, the health minister responded that he did not have knowledge of the details of this process.  "I do not know this process.  But i know that this equipment normally would already be in use," said Sergio Lobo soon after having finished a meeting with the Director General of the HNGV at Toko Baru, Dili.

"Ask the Anti Corruption Commission, because I do not know if John gave a contract to Mary," said Prime Minister Kay Rala xanana Gusmao when answering a question from the Tempo Semanal journalist after his meeting with the President of the Republic Taur Matan Ruak at the Presidential Palace at Ai-Tarak Laran late last week.

Perhaps the Prime Minister does not know of the proposal sent by the Vice Minister for Health to the office of the Prime Minister on 21 March 2012 proposing that budget funds be allocated from the contingency fund to the Finance Minister's husband's company to supply hospital beds to the hospital.

Prior to this Tempo Semanal tried to interview some public officials such as the Director General of the Ministry of Health.  However, they declined to comment because they said they had no knowledge of this case.  But, according to the documents that this newspaper has been able to access the signatures of these same public officials were on those documents.  As well, they were copied with the letter of request from the Director General of the Hospital to the Vice Minister for Health.

On 19 November 2012 at about 10.39 am a Tempo Semanal Journalist attended at the Ministry of Health Office in Caicoli, Dili to speak to the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Agapito da Silva Soares.  The journalist presented himself at the protocol desk at the ministry to make his appointment..

Shortly after, a public servant from protocol accompanied the journalist in the direction of the Director General's office.  But the Director General's secretary asked what the interview would be about?  The Tempo Semanal Journalist informed that it would be about the supply of medical equipment to the HNGV.

After having been informed that secretary entered the Director General's office to confirm whether he would be interviewed.  But, not long after the secretary returned telling the Tempo Semanal journalist that the Director could not attend to him and could not give an interview regarding this issue.

Upon hearing that the Director General of the Ministry of Health would not comment, the Tempo Semanal Journalist then went back to the Protocol officer's desk and asked to see the National Director of NALA, Leao Borges S. Sos.  But when the request was made for an interview the national director of NALA said he could not comment because they themselves were not in possession of knowledge of the details of this case.  He suggested the Tempo Semanal journalist speak with the Head of the Medical Equipment Management Department. 

"I cannot comment of this case.  because I am not familiar with it, so you can speak with the Head of the Medical Equipment Management Department.  Because he can give you information, as i cannot comment regarding the procurement process for medical equipment," Leao said.

As well as this, on 20 November 2012 Tempo Semanal tried to seek confirmation on this case with the Director of National Procurement, who is now a Secretary of State in the government, Francisco Burlaco.  But he responded, "I do not know about this case, you go and get a confirmation from the Finance Minister herself.  I heard that was her process.  But I do not know about it, nor did I know about the approval of the budget funds, because this was not my responsibility.  Therefore, go ask the Minister for Finance and procurement in the Ministry of Health," explained Burlaco to Tempo Semanal in his office.

This is not all. Tempo Semanal also tried to speak with the former Vice Minister Madalena Hanjan at her residence on Friday 19.11.2012 to try to confirm details regarding the purchase of medical equipment as requested by her with the Minister of Finance, Emilia Pires, but an older lady received the Tempo Semanal journalist informing him that Madalena Hanjan is now in Australia and has not yet returned.

Despite the fact that public officials at top level determined this situation to be an emergency, it must be questioned why they did so, because the items purchased have not yet been used and are currently stored at the HNGV warehouse to this day. 

"To this day some of these items are yet to be used and yet to be allocated to the hospital or the referal hospitals.  They are still warheoused at the HNGV awaiting the Minister despatch," said the Head of the Medical Equipment Management Department, Abilio Afonso Brites.

According to him, the medical equipment supplied were in keeping with the contract and are of quality.  But, do we really know this because some of these items have not yet been used.  The equipment included 100 electric operated beds, 20 ICU electric operated beds, 80 normal hospital beds, 100 patient tables and 4 patient lifters.

So too the Director General of the Hospital Odete da Silva Viegas added to Tempo Semanal that the equipment supplied by the company to the HNGV, being 80 beds that are already being used but there are some beds that are warehoused.  At this moment the HNGV needs medical equipment to support the work of its Haemodialisis Unit.  The equipment donated by the South Korean Government to the Haemodialisis Unit consist of only two machines.  Because of this the hospital made a proposal for two more Haemodialisis machines together with two beds, because the unit attends to between six to eight patients every day.  So they were forced to propose to make an urgent or emergency purchase of these two Haemodialisis machines and their beds. 

"This equipment have indeed arrived and are being used to service patients. But I do not know the details as to amount spent or from where the budget allocated to purchase this equipment.  Because these were decisions made by central services and top level people. Because of this, we simply received the things that were delivered to us," explained Odete. 

According to Odete, many times Sometimes we also have ideas to rectify certain things here at the hospital.  Because of this we also need information.  But many times our requests are not carried out according to what we requested, and many times we have no knowledge of the things that were done.  Rightly they must also know about the process so what is not correct can be rectified by them.

"I am always telling them that we should invest in our hospital system instead of sending people overseas all the time.  Sometimes there are issues that really creates difficulties for our work.  But we have to keep making efforts to find a solution. We cannot avoid our responsibilities, despite being unhappy and feel discriminated. But we have hopes that the new government can fix this," said Odete in her closing remarks. (**)


Anonymous said...

This is careless.

First you say the business is owned by the husband and then later you say it is owned by the Minister. Please clarify - who is the registered owner?

You also say that it was the Minister who approved the use of the Contingency Reserve. This is not what the document says in your other article.

Serious allegations require special care.


Anonymous said...

The one who should be asked for the clarification will be vice minister. She/he was the one who request the emergency fund for hospital.
The director from hospital HNGV said they did request that much bed. May question: is there only one hospital? If so, it clearly shows the minister made a coruption. However, if some other government hospital and clinic are there, maybe that beds are for those hospital which is probably most needed. Please investigate about this one. It was writen in this article that vice minister still overseas, so I assumed that he/she didn't now the order already arrive. That is why all related beds still in one hospital and waiting for vice minister to dispatch. Maybe he/she was the one who request those items so he/she knows better which hospital need beds as an emergency needs.

Anonymous said...

It is good for Tempo Semanal commence to 'attack' but do not incriminate itself, above all is to disclose any mismanagement and corruption occured in the government body. Anti Corruption Commission supposed to undertake further investigation to any clue being revealed.

It's not acceptable to hear government officials attach to this issue saying that 'I don't know this case...' It's a big shame!

Anonymous said...

If this information is true. Then the person mainly involve in this case are:
1. Emilia Pires
2. Magdalena Hanjam

Anonymous said...

If you look at the procurement procedures than some one must have advised the Ministry of Health and the head of Medical Equipment. I'm absolutely sure there was an advisor hired by the Ministry at the time that must have advised for or against. Perhaps you should follow this lead.