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Members of the group of doctors who advise Governor Wanda Vázquez on the issue of the coronavirus gave their approval on March 26 to the purchase, in record time, of a million rapid tests for COVID-19 at a cost, at a price, of $ 38 million, without asking if they had been approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This was indicated this Tuesday afternoon Mariel Rivera, purchasing analyst of the Department of Health, during the continuation of the executive hearings of the Health Commission of the House of Representatives. The witness related the “fast track” process in which the process was carried out behind the back of the then interim secretary of Health, Concepción Quiñones de Longo, who resigned the same day that this contract was signed.
“They made the recommendation in the ‘task force’ to proceed with that purchase. The one who was leading the meeting was Dr. Segundo Rodríguez, ”said Rivera.
Rivera, who had no experience in the purchasing area and had never seen the Health Procurement Regulations, reported that he began working with the former Assistant Secretary for Health, Adil Rosa, on the morning of March 25, as he would help her in the emergency-related purchasing process. Rivera ordinarily reports to the Office of the Health Crisis Management Program.
Rivera explained that on March 25 Rosa gave him the phone number of Juan Maldonado, a lawyer for Apex General Contractors, a company that was blessed with the millionaire purchase, because he had “fans and other items.” Rivera said he did not know how Maldonado’s name came to Rosa.
It has already been revealed that Maldonado had access to the Health Department thanks to a text message that he sent to Dr. Segundo Rodríguez Quilichini, coordinator of the medical task force, on March 22. Maldonado, whom Rivera was unaware of, told him that he had 200 to 250 respirators available, but that he could get 1,000, as well as other equipment as personal protective equipment. Maldonado did not provide details of the products that were available, nor guarantees or models, nor did Rosa indicate to Rosa that the supplier had to meet certain parameters.
Maldonado sent Rivera the requested quote in the early hours of March 26, including a quote for quick tests and a press release in which someone whom Rivera identified as “Steven” assumed that the tests had been approved. by the FDA.
The contract was signed around 2:00 p.m. of the same March 26.
Rivera indicated that he did not review the quote sent by Maldonado, but indicated that on the morning of March 26 he moved, with his computer, to the headquarters of the Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration in Caguas, where the “task” was meeting. force ”doctor.
Rosa also came there, who presented the doctors with a first offer that Apex made: 200,000 rapid tests that would be on the island in five days at a cost of $ 74.95 each.
Why was Dr. Concepción Quiñones de Longo not consulted? Asked the president of the Health Committee, Juan Oscar Morales.
“Adil said he would be sent to the ‘task force’ (the quote). That was the instruction she gave me, “replied Rivera, who located Rodríguez Quilichini, Juan Salgado and William Méndez” among others “at the meeting.
How did the members of the “task force” react? Morales asked.
“They were informed of the parameters of the price and that they were going to wait for the availability of the million. They mentioned that the price was high, but that they were going to wait and see if in the (proposal) of the million the price would drop ”Rivera said. “The most vocal were Dr. Segundo and Dr. Salgado. The leader of the group was Rodríguez ”.
In the middle of the presentation to the “task force”, Maldonado contacted her and indicated that he could deliver the million proof in five days.
Rivera said that no one asked if the evidence Maldonado promised was authorized by the FDA, and maintained that the “final decision” was to proceed with the purchase.
“They (the members of the” task force “at the meeting) tell us what the terms of delivery are and if they will be in five days. They insisted on the need to have evidence in the shortest possible time. Both Segundo Rodríguez and Dr. Salgado spoke of the need to have them here as soon as possible. That was Segundo y Salgado, ”Rivera said.
They excuse witness
Diana Meléndez, employee of the Purchasing Division of the Health Department, was excused this afternoon because the work had been extended but, before leaving, she notified Representative Morales that she would dedicate the day after tomorrow to comply with an order for the delivery of Justice Department documents.