Melinda Guerra has much to answer to Print E-mail
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Thursday, 29 May 2014 00:00

The Auditor General believes that ,183.49, was misappropriated from public funds by Melinda Guerra, the Manager of the Central Health Region. As a result, she is now before the Public Service Commission to answer to an inquiry as to why she misrepresented, misled and misused public monies in her capacity of regional manager. Of important note is that Guerra has denied all claims that she acted inappropriately with those funds, and that she is innocent of wrong doing.

CEO of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Peter Allen contacted the Auditor General on August 26, 2013, requesting that she look into the public spending at the Central Health Region for the year of 2012 because he had received credible allegations that public funds were being misused. An audit team was assembled 4 days later, and they started to audit the Central Health Region.What they found was that there were a series of transactions which Melinda Guerra, the Manager, the Former Finance Officer, Judith Swift, and the current Finance Officer, Ena Codrington, were connected to which were dubious in nature.

The first 4 transactions involved reimbursements of Melinda Guerra for out-of-pocket expenses which she incurred in her official capacity as Manager. Those came up to a total of $3,407.50, in which she supposedly paid for food and other medical supplies for different workshops which were already covered by the Ministry of Health, but she requested payment misleading the Ministry of Health that she incurred them herself.

Things got a little bit more worrisome when she started ordering repairs for a Golf Cart for the San Pedro Polyclinic. She authorized 10 payments to a total of $14,000 to a golf cart company on San Pedro in which the Polyclinic’s golf cart needed repairs. The Audit team also found a cash deposit for $2,000, suspected to be public funds, which went to the golf cart company. When the team looked into this transactions, they found that instead of being repairs, as Guerra and her finance officer claimed them to be, the payments lined up to a total of $16,000, which the company was offering as the sale price for a brand new golf cart. This, the audit team found, was highly irregular because it was misrepresentation of the purpose of the funds. As to the brand new golf cart, that actually went to the San Pedro Transport Department, where the San Pedro Polyclinic, which the Central Health Region was in charge of, only got access to the golf cart for “official purposes”. So, that means that Health Ministry funds were used to purchase an item which went to another ministry, in terms of the paper work, but the item itself could only be “assigned” to the San Pedro Polyclinic for “official purposes”.

The audit team also found that Guerra and her finance officer made 2 payments to Fultec Systems for the purchase of 2 apple Ipad Minis and 2 external hard drives, but instead, they changed the information on the requisition orders claiming that the items were instead 2 hard drives that they were in need of. That sum was $2,998, and after the audit team confronted Guerra about the purchases, she finally admitted that the items were misrepresented.

The audit team also found that Guerra authorized 4 prepayments to a total of $14,682 for goods and services which were not received at the time of the investigation. This is a blatant disregard for financial accountability practices at the Government of Belize.

Also, the audit team found that Guerra requested and approved 12 withdrawals to a total of $50,096 out of the National Health Institute Bank account, which is managed by the Matron Roberts Polyclinic. This was in direct contravention of finance orders that only the Ministry of Finance and the Accountant General was authorized to do.

Among the irregularities, the Audit team found that Guerra used public funds for very irregular behaviour including paying for her medical bills; purchasing gift items for her staff at Central Health Region; paying off one of the finance officers as a bonus for retiring; granting free loans to a total of $16,100 to employees of Matron Roberts Polyclinic; paying salaries and wages for persons not employed by the health facility; paying for materials to be used by Central Health Region, and not Matron Roberts. They also found that Guerra authorized payments for her employee’s medical expenses, her gym membership at Body 2000, and quite a few more transactions which calls Guerra’s integrity into question.

In light of these findings, the Auditor General is requesting that action be taken against Guerra, that the funds be recovered, and that the Regional management system be retooled to ensure that such abuses do not happen again.