Former Health Services Authority Chief Information Officer Dale Sanders said Tuesday that he did not accept any reward or contract from Cayman Islands government ministers as a result of a private meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2013.
Mr. Sanders said in a lengthy statement sent to the Cayman Compass this week that issues regarding the criminal investigation into the hospital’s CarePay patient swipe-card contract were “avoided” during the mid-2013 rendezvous with then-Health Minister Osbourne Bodden and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell.
“We avoided discussing any suspicions of corruption because, at that time, there were only strong suspicions, no firm proof, and all of us were sensitive to avoid any premature conclusions,” Mr. Sanders said. “I previously shared my suspicions about CarePay with Mr. Kirkconnell in a separate meeting … there was nothing more to discuss.
“I never held a contract, nor received any sort of financial reward from Minister Osbourne Bodden or Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell as was alleged during questioning by the defense attorney in the trial of Canover Watson,” Mr. Sanders added.
Minister Kirkconnell and Minister Bodden were contacted for a response to Mr. Sanders’s comments. Neither had responded by press time.
Watson’s trial, which ended in a seven-person jury finding the Cayman Islands businessman guilty of fraud and corruption-related charges in the award and implementation of the CarePay card system, revealed that at least three current government ministers discussed aspects of the CarePay contract investigation with witnesses who eventually appeared as part of the court proceedings.
During the trial, it was revealed that Mr. Sanders brought corruption concerns to then-opposition party member Moses Kirkconnell in 2011 – alleging that the hospital’s CarePay scheme process had been improperly interfered with by Watson, then the chairman of the health services board. Mr. Sanders said he also mentioned his belief – without presenting any “hard evidence” – that former Health Minister Mark Scotland and then-Premier McKeeva Bush were somehow involved.
Watson’s lawyer, Trevor Burke, QC, suggested during trial questioning that the mid-2013 meeting in Washington was an attempt by the ministers, who were elected in the May 2013 general election, to persuade Mr. Sanders to provide them with “political ammunition” on their foes, Messrs. Scotland and Bush.
Mr. Sanders said he and the ministers discussed the CarePay project during the Washington meeting, particularly Minister Bodden’s concerns regarding whether the system might eventually work. Mr. Sanders said he had major doubts about the project for two reasons: First, the insurance claims environment in Cayman was vastly different from the one used in Jamaica, the home base of the CarePay system contractor, and second, there were complex computer programming issues involved with processing insurance claims for hospital and clinic services, as opposed to processing for pharmacy services.
Mr. Sanders said the two ministers also discussed the possibility of his advising government on the “strategic development” of medical tourism in the Cayman Islands. The possibility of Cayman’s health services forming a partnership with a larger U.S.-based healthcare provider to help lower costs for Caymanians who had to go off island for medical treatment was also discussed, he said.
“Regarding [the last two topics], I expressed an interest in working as a consultant for Minister Bodden and Mr. Kirkconnell, but they never engaged me in that capacity,” Mr. Sanders said.
Contract details provided by Mr. Sanders on Tuesday indicated that any business arrangements he had maintained with the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority ended in September 2013, shortly after the Washington meeting in mid-2013. An open records request filed for those contracts was initially denied by the health authority, which cited an ongoing criminal investigation into the CarePay project.
After his contract ended in September 2011 as the HSA’s chief information officer, Mr. Sanders signed a one-year consultancy agreement, records show. The consulting work included a number of HSA projects active at the time, including work on the CarePay system, pharmacy upgrades and bids for the main contractor providing the public hospital system’s information management, Cerner. The one-year deal paid up to $10,000 per month and terminated in September 2012.
Following that contract, a further one-year consultancy deal was extended through September 2013, records show. This extension paid up to $2,500 per month and was more focused on the rebidding process for the hospital information system contract then held by Cerner.
“The payments that I received over the two years in which I served as a consultant to HSA totaled $112,250, or an average of $56,125 per year for those two years,” Mr. Sanders said. “My salary as the chief information officer of the Cayman Islands HSA [between 2009 and 2011] was $125,000 a year.”
Mr. Sanders said he was sharing the contract information to clear his name of “any suspicion or wrongdoing” and to clear up any rumors that HSA staffers might be “accountable for any wrongdoing in regard to my contracts.”