The payment of US$2.4 million for the proposed expansion to the private sector of the Cayman Islands Hospital’s CarePay patient swipe-card system prompted questions from the Grand Court judge presiding over the trial late Tuesday.
Justice Michael Mettyear made a direct query to Health Services Authority Chief Executive Lizzette Yearwood: Was there a contract for the CarePay system’s use by private sector health insurers and doctors?
“I believed there was a contract, but I never had sight of it,” Ms. Yearwood answered at the end of her testimony in the case.
Judge Mettyear responded that the capital project, while not enormous in terms of government’s budget, was still substantial.
“I just wanted you to have a chance,” Justice Mettyear said to Ms. Yearwood. “Why is it you dismissed the notion that [the money] could be given by the minister [of health] alone?”
Ms. Yearwood responded that even in a ministerial-driven initiative, a written contract of “some sort” would be required, setting out the obligations of either party.
“I’m not aware of the minister being able to enter into any sort of business arrangement without any sort of physical contract,” Ms. Yearwood said.
Attorney Trevor Burke, QC, representing CarePay defendant Canover Watson, then asked Ms. Yearwood whether the drafting of a contract would fall to the Ministry of Health and its administrative staff.
“Yes, sir,” Ms. Yearwood answered. Members of that administrative staff, including senior officers at the ministry, are expected to testify during the course of the trial. Former Minister of Health Mark Scotland is not on the witness list.
Crown prosecutors claimed during the trial’s opening statements that Watson essentially deceived local government officials into paying additional sums for the expansion of the public hospital’s patient swipe-card system by “doctoring” copies of the CarePay contract and submitting it to Health Ministry officials, including former Minister Scotland, in August 2011.
The proposed expansion of the CarePay patient card system to private sector health insurers in the Cayman Islands never happened and was not agreed to in the initial contract government signed for the service in December 2010.
Yet at least US$1.2 million of the sum was paid to the local company that administered the swipe-card system, AIS Cayman Ltd. – a company that prosecutors say Watson and his business partner and close friend Jeffrey Webb ran through “sham” directors on behalf of their Jamaican business partners. Some of that US$1.2 million went to pay for Webb’s home loan in Georgia, U.S., and another portion of that cash was given to the Cayman Islands Football Association, prosecutors allege.
Mr. Burke has argued for the defense that the allegation that Watson “doctored” the CarePay contract is “preposterous,” that the CarePay card-system was well-supported in all areas of the government healthcare apparatus, and that former Minister Scotland was one of its biggest backers.
“There was no more enthusiastic supporter of AIS than … the minister responsible,” Mr. Burke said last week.
When things started to fall apart on the CarePay deal in 2012, Mr. Burke said those supporters backed away.
“Everybody tried to distance themselves from the decision they had so willingly made,” Mr. Burke said. “Everybody tried to minimize their own involvement and shove the blame up the line to the [Health Services Authority Board] chairman [Watson]. “Some of them were under suspicion themselves at the time, and may still be.”