$10M health scandal – Shame of the nation

How a rural health facility was left in shambles because money allocated for its repair were stolen


MANUOPO Area Health Centre in the remote Reef Islands, Temotu Province, was once the pride of the community.
Today it is the shame of the villagers there.
All because some health workers and their accomplices in Honiara stole money allocated for the health centre’s renovation and upgrade.
This week, police begun arresting health officials they believe were responsible for the missing $10 million within the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
The ministry’s former financial controller, Stephen Kido Dalipanda, was the first senior health official police arrested and charged, Tuesday this week.
He faces 15 counts of false pretences.
Yesterday, police arrested and charged the ministry’s former procurement officer Robert Manu.
He faces 12 counts of false pretences and four counts of official corruption.
Both officials lost their jobs when the $10 million scandal was uncovered in 2013.
Manuopo Area Health Centre is the only health facility serving the people of Reef Islands, according to nurse in-charge Cyril Jack during a recent trip the Solomon Star took there this year.
“Due to years of neglect, the centre’s condition started to deteriorate in 2003,” MrJack said.
Jack said in 2010 they were informed through government channels that Manuopohealth centrewas in the national government’s priority list for upgrade.
“The community was thrilled at hearing this,” Mr Jack said.
“As part of our contribution, we started gathering gravels and other materials ready for construction work which was due to start in 2013,” he added.
But in 2013, something else happened that came to Mr Jack’s attention.
Up to $10 million have gone missing from the Ministry of Health’s headquarters in Honiara.
This is the funding under which Manuopo Area Health Centre is to be repaired and upgraded.
The missing millions were uncovered while officials in the Ministry of Finance were doing their normal risk assessment of government finances.
Theyfound that government contracts allocated under the health project involved grossly inflated pricing of freight service charges and shipping charters by contractors who were not shipping operators, but merely middle-man shell companies that charged exorbitant margins of around three to four times the normal freight service charges.
According to MrJack, that was the last they heard of the government’s proposed upgrading of Manuopo Health Centre.
“In 2014, police officers investigating the health scandal came here and confirmed to us that money earmarked for our health centre’s upgrade and renovation have been stolen,” he said.
“We were shocked and angry, but what can we do?
“There’s nothing else we could do but to continue using this facility to serve the people.
“As you can see, the state of the building is no longer fit to be used for health purposes.
“We should just shut down the health centre, but that would be denying the community of their right to access medical service.”
The health centre has leaking roof, no power, no water, and no beds.
According to MrJack, when there’s rain, he has to move his working table around to avoid the leaks.
Seriously ill-patients who were admitted at the centre have to lie on the dirty floor.
At night, he uses torch light from his mobile phone to attend to patients.
“This is not acceptable and I wish to appeal to the Ministry of Health in Honiara to seriously consider putting Manuopo Health Centre back on its priority list.
“This health centre should have already been closed, but as I’ve said I cannot do that because it’s the only health facility serving the people of this community.”
Manuopo Area Health Centre is just one of many rural health facilities that has been denied the much needed repair service it deserves.
Other clinics across the country were left in the same state after the $10 million, which were provided by the government and people of Australia, was stolen.
Eight officials from the Ministry of Health were terminated after the scandal was uncovered.
None was jailed.
Two non-health workers, who collaborated with health insiders to set up fictitious shipping companies, have also been charged.
One, Wesley Poloso, who admitted the crime, was jailed for two and half years.
The other, John Biliki, faces 14 counts of false pretence, 15 counts of money laundering, and 15 counts of uttering.
His case is still before the courts.