March 5, 2021

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Health Commission makes 11 referrals for the purchase of COVID-19 tests

The Health Commission of the House of Representatives today referred eleven government officials and contractors for the purchase of COVID-19 evidence from the Panel of Former Judges of the Independent Special Prosecutor (FEI), Office of Government Ethics, Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Supreme Court.

Among the officials referred to the authorities, are the coordinator of the Medical Task Force, Segundo Rodríguez the secretary of the Interior, Antonio Pabón Batlle the Undersecretary of the Interior, Lillian Sánchez and the former Chief of Staff of the Department of Health, Mabel Cabeza.

Also face referrals, the lawyer Juan Maldonado who managed the $ 38 million contract for the purchase of evidence on behalf of Apex General Contractors, as well as the president of the company, Robert Rodr Iguez López.

The report makes the referrals in general, but does not detail to which public order agency each of the officials and businessmen is referred.

Maldonado is accused of fraud, perjury and falsification of documents. In addition, Ricardo Vázquez Hernández, President of the company 313, LLC is referred.

“Regarding Dr. Segundo Rodríguez Quilinchini, Coordinator of the“ Medical Task Force ”and Rector of the Medical Sciences Campus of the University of Puerto Rico, this Commission identified a large number of irregularities and possible violations of statutes, "says the voluminous 126-page report.

The report maintains that Rodríguez may have violated Articles 254, 255, 261, 262 and 263 of the Penal Code of Puerto Rico (Undue Intervention in Government Operations, Usurpation of Public Office, Undue Influence, Breach of Duty and Negligence in the Fulfillment of Duty) as well as Article 4.2 of the Government Ethics Law.

“Dr. Segundo Rodríguez , failed in its duty to provide advice on public health decision-making and other matters related to COVID-19, even though the Medical Task Force was recruited to offer advice an medical level. It was demonstrated with the purchase of Apex General Contractors, that the coordinator of the Medical Task Force, never made sure that the tests met, at least, with the approval of the "Food and Drug Administration" (FDA, for its acronym in English), nor were factors such as: approval, authorization, manufacturing, registration, distribution, validation, effectiveness, sensitivity, among others, taken into account. However, it did take care of knowing what the price, availability and delivery time would be, information that did not require an expert body to evaluate aspects related to public health and safety, "says the report.

The report adds that Dr. Rodríguez “was more concerned with the aspect of the purchase and from whom it was purchased, than in verifying what was being purchased. Denoting thus, its intention to influence so that the Government of Puerto Rico obviate the purchasing processes already determined, to obtain the result for a particular company. ”

“ It is worth noting that, coincidentally, Apex General Contractors was one of the companies referred by Dr. Segundo Rodríguez himself to conduct business with the Department of Health. The report maintains that the doctor "exceeded" in exercising the powers, duties and responsibilities that were granted to him by Executive Order- 2020-026, "added the referred.

To the Secretary of the Interior, the Health Commission attributes to acting in concert and common agreement with the Under Secretary Sánchez and that they could have violated Articles 262 and 263 of the Penal Code of Breach of Duty and Negligence in Breach of Duty as well as the Government Ethics Law.

The The report says that in the hearings of the Commission "it was demonstrated" that they have failed to comply with the duties and responsibilities that their positions entail, especially the due supervision of the professional services contracts promulgated by the agencies, entities and instrumentalities of our government, in excess of $ 10,000, as provided in Memorandum No. 2017-001 of the Ministry of the Interior (Circular Letter 141-17 of the OGP) in its subsection X and the Memoran do No. OSG-2019-001 of the Ministry of the Interior (Circular Letter 168-19 of the OGP), OE-2019-002 and Law No. 3-2017 "Law to address the fiscal and budgetary economic crisis for guarantee the operation of the Government of Puerto Rico. ”

“ Both stated that they had not examined any contract during the course of the emergency due to COVID-19, thus failing to fulfill their duty to ensure that the agencies of our government comply with the established purchasing process, "states the report.

Likewise, it says that due to the omission of these officials, the Government" has failed to comply with the provisions of the PROMESA Law, which confers the Fiscal Supervision Board (FSF) the authority to review and approve government contracts to ensure their consistency with the approved Fiscal Plan. ”

“ For these purposes, it is the responsibility of the Government of Puerto Rico to notify the Supervisory Board of any contract in excess of $ 10,000,000. So much is our breach (in substantive and procedural terms) that the JSF itself resorted to suing the Government of Puerto Rico in federal court for its breach, as it had not been notified of contracts signed during the emergency, such as that of Apex General Contractors by 38 million dollars, as well as not having disclosed numerous other details related to this multi-million dollar transaction, "he indicates.

Other referred officials are: Iris E. Santos, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OGP); CPA Alfonso Rossy, Assistant Secretary of Accounting of the Department of the Treasury; Guarina Delgado García, Special Assistant in the Emergency Management and Disaster Management Bureau; Ottmar J. Chávez Piñero, (at the time of the events) Administrator of General Services [NBS1] .

“We cannot fail to emphasize that we have the authority to authorize in the first instance the budget for income and expenses of our government. But with this power comes the enormous responsibility of ensuring the good use that the Executive Branch makes of said funds. If in other instances or administrations this has not been audited, we have been doing so since we arrived at the legislature and since I chaired the cameral Health Commission, "said the representative and president of the Health Commission, Juan Oscar Morales.

"Above partisan, intra-party or inter-party considerations, the performance of public officials and private individuals involved in these transactions and who are responsible for irregularities with public funds and violations of laws and regulations must be evaluated. "Added the legislator.

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