CarePay is dead. But its residue lingers all over the Cayman Islands.
The lead story in Wednesday’s Compass was a partial exhumation of the CarePay issue. During a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, Superintendent of Health Insurance Mervyn Conolly told lawmakers that Cayman still needs a real-time electronic verification system for healthcare claims, following the government’s previous unsuccessful effort.
“Unfortunately, we know what happened with that particular initiative,” Mr. Conolly said.
“What happened” was this:
Local businessman Canover Watson, who was then board chairman of the Health Services Authority, was found guilty of conspiring to skim profits from a five-year, US$13 million contract signed in December 2010 for the CarePay swipe-card system for public hospital patients. Watson used his position on the HSA board to direct the award of the contract to contractor AIS Cayman Ltd., while disguising the involvement of himself and alleged co-conspirator Jeffrey Webb. Prosecutors said Watson earned nearly US$350,000 from the scheme.
Later, a US$2.4 million expense to expand CarePay to the private sector was inserted into government’s 2011/12 budget, but no contract for that arrangement ever existed. Government ended up paying US$1.8 million for the fictitious expansion, with absolutely nothing to show for its money. (The total public expense on CarePay was US$3.2 million.)
One year ago, a Caymanian jury convicted Watson on charges of conspiracy to defraud, fraud on the government, breach of trust and conflict of interest. Watson was sentenced to seven years in prison. (He is appealing the verdict.)
Watson’s alleged co-conspirator, Webb, is dealing with separate legal problems in the United States, where he has pleaded guilty to racketeering and money laundering conspiracy charges in connection with the global FIFA corruption and bribery scandal. Webb is scheduled to receive his sentence from a U.S. federal judge in May. If and when he returns to Cayman, Webb faces charges related to his alleged role in the CarePay fiasco.
Webb’s fate is far from the final loose end in the twisted CarePay narrative.
Watson’s trial served as the grounds for a parade of witnesses whose testimony, as we wrote last February, “paints a picture of dysfunction within the halls of government, with a broken system of ineffective public servants and appointed board members who deliver neither checks nor balances.”
After the verdict, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson ordered the Internal Audit Unit to investigate the procurement of the CarePay contract. Government’s auditors said in the resulting report, “we did not find any evidence of misconduct or corruption on the part of public servants within the entities reviewed.”
We wrote in July, “In other words, individual accountability is nowhere to be found. Neither has government expressed any plan, or intention, of getting back taxpayers’ money.”
While the witness testimony heard during the trial was damning, what was disconcerting was the testimony that has never been delivered, by people who were never called to the stand – most notably, Douglas Halsall, who is CEO of AIS (Advanced Integrated Systems) Jamaica, and then-Health Minister Mark Scotland, who worked closely with Watson in regard to the CarePay contract.
“The minister was the most enthusiastic of anyone,” Watson testified during his trial. And yet the public has never heard Minister Scotland’s side of the story.
Someday we may unpeel more layers from the CarePay onion. With Webb still facing CarePay charges, the police investigation can still be considered “active,” although all outward signs point to its being dormant.
We realize that much of the above is “not news” to our readers, but repetition is warranted, even necessary, to keep the still-scandalous CarePay scandal from fading from our collective consciousness. Neither the government, nor the public, should be content in considering this a closed case.