Doctor points finger at political command

| 08/12/2015 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Dr Greg Hoeksema

(CNS): The former medical director of the Health Services Authority (HSA), Dr Greg Hoeksema, told the court Monday he believed that the fraud allegations surrounding the contract with AIS (Cayman) for the hospital payment system went much further up the political chain of command. Giving evidence via video-link from the US in the case against Canover Watson, the former HSA Board chair, for fraud and corruption, Hoeksema, who ultimately signed the contract with AIS, said he felt from the very beginning that something was not right.

He told anti-corruption police when he was interviewed that he believed the health minister or even the premier at the time could have been involved, though he conceded he had no evidence to support his suspicions.

As the hospital’s medical boss at the time, Hoeksema was also on the HSA Board and then later the technical committee that evaluated the bids for the verification and payment system that eventually went to AIS and became known as CarePay.

As his evidence unfolded before the jury, the doctor revealed how uncomfortable he had been about the process from the first trip to Jamaica to see the AIS system in action up until the day he signed the contract and beyond.

Dr Hoeksema admitted that, having seen the CarePay system in Jamaica, he was impressed but said he also had some concerns, which he expressed to the rest of the HSA team that had visited AIS and its director, Doug Halsall, on the trip back from Jamaica.

He also revealed that he had received an invitation from Halsall for the Hoeksema family to enjoy a free holiday on his boat in Jamaica, something the doctor said he could never have done.

“It would have been tantamount accepting a bribe,” Hoeksema said. ”It added to my overall notion that something wasn’t right … and we were dealing with people who play by a different set of business rules than I am used to.”

Hoeksema told the court that he had had concerns that Watson was pushing the contract process along too quickly, and he found it odd that afterwards Watson was so directly involved with the process and management of the implementation. He said he believed that the board was bullied into the AIS contract by Watson.

When he eventually signed it on behalf of the HSA (because HSA CEO Lizette Yearwood was away), he felt very uncomfortable putting his name to it, he said, but felt that by that time there was nothing he could do to stop it. The doctor told the court he could either “die on the battlefield” trying to stop it or swallow the situation and focus on the many other issues that needed his attention at the hospital.

Hoeksema said that after he signed he had joked with his colleague, Dale Sanders, that it was probably better him than Yearwood because at least if or when “this thing blows up”, he would be “long gone” — a reference to his position as a contracted work permit holder.

He also told the jury that he had raised his concerns that something was not right with several people, including Yearwood, Sanders and other members of management, during his time at the hospital.

He said that he had expressed his belief to investigators that the health minister at the time, Mark Scotland, and even the then premier, McKeeva Bush, may have been involved with AIS or the contract fraud. He said it was purely conjecture but he had the impression they were “caught up in the whole thing” because “it had to be going further up the line”.

He said if there was fraud involved, Watson was not doing it alone, though it was entirely possible Scotland had nothing to do with it and Watson was feeding him information to cover up what was going on, too.

Hoeksema made it clear he had no evidence that the politicians were involved but said it “was difficult to appreciate it was Watson alone”.

He told the jury that despite his ongoing suspicions, he had no solid evidence that there was anything untoward and so could do nothing to halt the process. “I had nothing concrete that I could use to challenge the chairman of the board,” Hoeksema said.

As Trevor Burke QC cross-examined the doctor, he suggested that his evidence was motivated by the fact that it was Watson who had informed him that his contract was over when a qualified Caymanian was found to replace him. The same situation also applied to his close friend Sanders, another American employee whose contract was terminated when a local was found. Burke suggested the men were colluding as they were giving the same evidence, especially about the possible involvement of Scotland and Bush.

Hoeksema denied colluding but said they had discussed the situation when they were both still working at the hospital and where they had shared the same experience. He said he was aware that Sanders had evidence that he had taken to the Anti-Corruption Commission regarding the possible fraud surrounding the CarePay system.

Neither Bush nor Scotland have been charged in this case and there has been no evidence presented by the crown that either politician was involved.

Although he was health minister throughout the period in question, between 2010 and 2013, Scotland is not listed to give evidence for the crown. According to the evidence, Halsall, who was also a key player in the contract as the owner of AIS in Jamaica and a director in AIS Cayman Ltd, is also not a witness either for the crown.

Sanders is expected to give evidence on Wednesday.

Watson faces six corruption related charges alongside his friend and business partner, Jeffrey Webb, who is not on trial at present. The crown alleges the pair were the beneficial owners of AIS Cayman and were creaming off millions of dollars from the public contract. He is also charged with money laundering, while his former personal assistant, Miriam Rodriguez, is accused of carrying some of the corrupt gains to the bank.

Watson and Rodrigues have both denied the charges. Webb, who is under house arrest in Atlanta, Georgia, after recently pleading guilty in the massive FIFA racketeering case, has not yet answered the charges against him here in Cayman. Due to be sentenced in the FIFA case next June, it is not known when Webb will answer the local corruption charges.

The case continues.

 

 

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