PHILIPSBURG–Now nine months after Emil Lee restarted the process “by the book” setting the country further behind in healthcare, Member of Parliament MP Dr Cornelius de Weever says “enough is enough.”
He said if Emil Lee wanted to do things by the book and not play politics to lay claim to the development of the new health centre in time for election – if you were actually trying to get things done the right way? While it appears the sitting government’s concern is solely building a new building MP De Weever pointed out “this is not just a construction project, the training of staff is highly required, the transition from the old to the new building will also take a lot of training, strategic planning and preparation taking into account the patients and staff presently occupying the SMMC.”
He said with the company government has chosen “we have a great example in St. Lucia where INSO built a hospital, then equipped it and no training was provided to staff and that is why today that hospital is still closed.”
The risk for the country is that there will be another white elephant building lying wasted costing millions with the present government’s choice of contractor and method of approach. De Weever said “it is time to stop playing politics with healthcare in St. Maarten.” What irks the MP is that while Minister Lee challenged the first plan, he made no mention of why it was necessary for a new one other than stating no public bidding was done. This claim has little bearing as many government projects are and can be completed without having a public bid in the interest of expedience.
MP De Weever pointed to the fact that to redo the work that had already been done has a major cost, for which he wonders “who paid the bill?” Another concern is since the first plan to build the new medical centre was in Lee’s opinion improper, why did he and the present government continue using the same consultant? De Weever said in fact that once a project is completed, if done without a bidding process, then the SOAB audit team would conduct a complete audit of the project and ensure accountability.
The idea is to work in the interest of the people. SZV is an independent company that was already engaged with an international hospital consulting and construction company VAMED for the construction of the medical centre. They along with SMMC and other stakeholders worked tirelessly to develop the case based on the needs of the country. De Weever said the fact that the minister decided to put it on open bid was a clear indication, by his own admission, of overreaching and undue influence.
De Weever said, “By his own admission it is clear that he interfered in the process.” Lee has been formally accused by SZV Board Chairman Dr Michel Petit of “overreaching and undue influence” in his capacity as Health Minister and the question being raised regarding the new plans to build the medical centre is “did the supervisory board of SZV approve the business case for the project before the tender was issued?”
MP De Weever said Minister Lee must tell the public whether any objections have been submitted against the bidding process. He must also explain the difference between the low US$60 million bid and the high US$140 million for the same project and do we have a maximum price guarantee? He said it was important to know who the local representatives for INSO are. In recent weeks Minister Lee mentioned five companies were pre-qualified but never explained why only three were awarded a chance for a bid?
De Weever asks “Could the tender have been misinterpreted causing the other companies not to participate, which could also explain the difference between USD60m to USD140m bid. De Weever said based on these concerns it should also be asked if the terms of reference and the bidding process should be re-evaluated by an independent body.
Regarding claims that the then United People’s Party UP led government of which De Weever is part did not put the construction of the SMMC on public bid, De Weever said this was not unusual. He said one such example was the two phase construction of the Pointe Blanche Water Plant. Once the water plant was constructed, an audit was done by SOAB in which Lee should be in possession of a copy or can easily request. In it he would find that all funding was clearly accounted for.
MP De Weever said, “Had there been any speculation of not following proper procedures when choosing not to go on a public bid it would have been highlighted in the report and I am pretty sure that everyone would have known.”
De Weever made it clear that while it is not against procedure, once a Minister decided not to go on public bid, they must be able to justify their reason for doing so. He said, “That was done in the case of the Pointe Blanche Water Plant and also done in the case of the first plan to construct the new medical centre. Meanwhile De Weever said Minister Lee should tell the public how much it cost to restart the process and the cost associated with the delay of the construction of the hospital even further.
Source: St. Martin News Network
MP Cornelius de Weever says enough is enough.