House Health Committee files report with new referrals of gov’t officials for law violations...
By The Star Staff
The House Health Committee on Monday presented the final report on the investigation of the purchasing process for tests to detect COVID-19, as ordered in Resolution 1741. The report contains new referrals to state and federal agencies for irregularities, negligence and violation of established laws and regulations.
“We cannot fail to emphasize that we have the power to authorize in the first instance the budget for income and expenses of our government,” said Health Committee Chairman Rep. Juan Oscar Morales in a written communication. “But with this power comes the enormous responsibility of ensuring that the Executive Branch makes good use of those 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 have chaired the House Health Committee.”
“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,” the legislator reiterated.
The report, which also contains findings and recommendations, details that it refers to several officials of the Puerto Rico government and people who were involved in the process of purchasing the tests with the Department of Health.
Those individuals are Iris Santos, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OGP by its Spanish initials); CPA Alfonso Rossy, assistant secretary of accounting at the island Treasury Department; Dr. Segundo Rodríguez Quilichini, coordinator of the Medical Task Force; Antonio Pabón Batlle, La Fortaleza chief of staff; Lillian Sánchez, La Fortaleza deputy chief of staff; Mabel Cabeza, former employee of the Health Department and La Fortaleza; Guarina Delgado García, special assistant in the Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Bureau (NMEAD by its Spanish acronym); Ottmar Chávez, General Services administrator; Juan Maldonado de Jesús, representative of Apex General Contractors; Robert Rodríguez, president of Apex General Contractors; and Ricardo Vázquez Hernández, president of 313 LLC.
The report establishes that Santos, director of the OGP, may have been negligent in fulfilling her duty under Article 263 of the Penal Code, in addition to possibly having violated Article 264 of the Penal Code, which addresses the embezzlement of public funds. Rossy, the CPA, could have been negligent in the fulfillment of his duty according to Articles 262 and 263 of the Penal Code and could have violated Article 4.2 (of Chapter IV Subsection (r) and (s)) of the Government Ethics Law, as well as Article 9 of the Accounting Act of the Government of Puerto Rico. In addition, he may have violated Article 264 of the Penal Code that addresses the embezzlement of public funds. Rodríguez Quilichini may have been negligent in fulfilling his duty pursuant to Articles 254, 255, 261, 262 and 263 of the Penal Code and may have violated Article 4.2 of the Government Ethics Law.
Likewise, Pabón Batlle and Sánchez may have been negligent in fulfilling their duty under Articles 262 and 263 of the Penal Code, and may have violated Article 4.2 of the Government Ethics Law, possibly violating, in multiple instances, what constitute the functions and duties of their positions.
The report states that Cabeza may have been negligent in fulfilling her duty under Articles 254, 255 and 261 of the Penal Code and could have violated Article 4.2 of the Government Ethics Law. Delgado García may have been negligent in fulfilling her duty under Article 263 of the Penal Code.
Likewise, Chávez may have been negligent in the fulfillment of her duty pursuant to the provisions of Article 263 of the Penal Code and may have violated Article 9 of the Accounting Law, in addition to possibly having violated Article 264 of the Penal Code.
The report refers to the attorney Maldonado de Jesús for possible violations of Article 56 of the Notarial Law and Rule 67 (evidence of legitimation and signature) of the Notarial Regulations, and for possibly having violated the Canons of Professional Ethics, especially Canon 35 (sincerity and honesty), as well as for having committed perjury when testifying in violation of Article 33 of the Political Code of Puerto Rico and Article 269 of Law 146-2012, known as the Puerto Rico Penal Code.
The report establishes that Rodríguez may have violated Articles 202, 211 and 212 of the Penal Code. Likewise, it establishes that Vázquez could have committed the crime of ideological falsehood (Article 212 of the Penal Code) and violated Article 34 of the Political Code, as well as Article 298b of the Penal Code.
In the final report, it is stated that due to the exhaustive analysis that the committee made with all the information in its possession, another irregularity was added by Gen. José Burgos, NMEAD commissioner, since he signed with Apex General Contractors an invoice for the amount of $38 million, where it certified that it had received a million tests, without, in fact, that having happened.
“Endangered in this way, was the disbursement of public funds,” the report adds. “In addition, from the above, it is surprisingly embarrassing, that a prominent military man, of the rank of GENERAL, lends himself to assert, in a document, facts that are false, of which he is proven false, and on which he will pay with public funds.”
Referrals will be sent to the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor Panel, Government Ethics Office, Office of the Comptroller, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.
Among the findings, a pattern of irregularities and negligence in the process of purchases made and in the fulfillment of the duty of various government officials stands out as a result of the investigation, putting the lives and health of all citizens at risk. Likewise, there were strong indications of gross deficiency in the administrative direction of the Health Department, which went nine days without a head official while important decisions were made on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico in the midst of a pandemic.