Tue | Nov 30, 2021

UHWI tech project on Integrity Commission radar

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2021 | 12:11 AMJovan Johnson/Senior Staff Reporter
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The now-troubled board of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) meets today amid the developing scandal over how more than $500 million was spent on an IT project at the institution that is now four years past its delivery date. The...

The now-troubled board of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) meets today amid the developing scandal over how more than $500 million was spent on an IT project at the institution that is now four years past its delivery date.

The digitisation being done with the Hospital Information Management System (HIMS) also has the attention of the Integrity Commission, Jamaica’s anti-corruption watchdog.

And following a June 13 Sunday Gleaner exposė, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says he has since requested a brief from UHWI board chairman, Professor Evan Duggan.

The hospital’s chief information and technology officer, Herman Athias, resigned on Monday without providing a reason, confirmed CEO Kevin Allen, who thanked the expert for his “significant contribution”.

Athias, who joined the UHWI in December 2019, has declined to comment “at this time”. Sources say he was “unhappy” with the project.

But it’s not only the UHWI that is facing scrutiny.

The questionable contract was executed by the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI) whose early statement has thrown the spotlight on the 2013-2018 principalship of Professor Archibald McDonald.

The procurement was done that way to avoid it going to public tender as would have been required under Jamaican law if the hospital was the contracting entity, said multiple sources with knowledge of the issues.

The UWI, a regional body, has greater autonomy in the award of contracts.

McDonald, the current deputy chairman of the UHWI board, signed the contract on September 8, 2015, forcing the struggling Mona campus to find US$1.25 million to pay Health Administration Systems (HAS), an opaque St Lucia-registered company, for the HIMS licence.

Mona was also saddled with the yearly payment of US$600,000 in maintenance fees to the Douglas Halsall-led Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS), the local partner of HAS, which is implementing HIMS.

NONSENSE

The HIMS software was developed by Suvarna Technosoft, an India-based company in which AIS has a stake.

“This kind of nonsense is really troubling. What do you mean if due diligence was done? ... This thing was properly investigated,” McDonald has said.

The Gleaner has obtained copies of a complaint emailed on May 25, 2021, to Greg Christie, executive director of the Integrity Commission, which, by law, is barred from confirming any investigation.

Christie acknowledged the email from a whistleblower group named ‘The Patriotic Citizens of the Mona and UHWI Campuses’ and said he would pass on the contents to Craig Beresford, the commission’s director of information and complaints, for his “information and attention”.

Last Monday, the group also emailed Beresford, raising questions about the tender process for the J$1.2-billion health information system government project to be rolled out in public institutions.

A 2018 UHWI project status report was scathing of HIMS as appearing to be “still in development” with the project running beyond its deadline, over budget, and fraught with problems.

The project that was due for completion in April 2017 has not reached most UHWI wards, although partially active in some departments.

The UHWI has directed questions to The UWI, which has confirmed there’s no timeline for the completion of the project and that significant customisations contributed to the delays.

Mona could not say whether the contract was properly approved.

James Moss-Solomon, who chaired the UHWI board from 2016-2019, said the cost overruns were “significant” and so bad that sometimes the hospital and The UWI were late in making payments because of cash-flow problems.

AIS has declined to comment.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com