Sunday 19 September 2021

Honduran Health Ministry Accused of Corruption, Fiscal Fraud

Large purchase orders made during the course of a day were conducted by the 'corrupt network,' flying under the radar of the maximum limit allotted to contractors.

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Honduras’ Health Ministry is sinking deeper into a corruption scandal, with the National Anti-Corruption Council (CNA) introducing fresh allegations to an ongoing investigation.

According to the CNA, the Health Ministry allegedly cooperated with Astropharma to overcharge for medical materials. | Photo: Reuters

Presented to the Public Ministry on Thursday, investigators say new evidence and testimonies support the theory of fiscal fraud which has robbed the state of some 56 million lempiras (US$2,376,675) between 2009 and 2014.

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According to the CNA, the Health Ministry allegedly cooperated with mercantile pharmaceutical company Astropharma to overcharge for medical materials and equipment used in hospitals around the country.

The investigators have verified the existence of a number of files which prove orders were made from a national level in 17 different departments.

Large purchase orders made during the course of a day were conducted by the ‘corrupt network,’ flying under the radar of the maximum limit allotted to contractors, the CNA said on Twitter.

“It is an irrefutable fact that the mercantile society had a contract for 600 million lempiras (US$25,500,400),” said CNA attorney Odir Fernández.

CNA Director Gabriela Castellanos arrived in Tegucigalpa Thursday morning, accompanied by Fernández, to present their findings to the Special Prosecutor’s Unit against Corruption and Impunity (Ufecic).

“The National Anti-Corruption Council imputes the alleged criminal offenses of fraud, violation of the duties of the officials and illicit association to a total of 329 people who worked in a public function, others who are currently employees of the Secretariat of Health and other government institutions that also participated,” Castellanos said.

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“Fragmentation and overcharging were put into play which cost the state of Honduras 56 million lempiras; this investigation has been conducted over a period of time, enough for the CNA… to determine the fault of responsibility of the 329 officials and former officials, as well as representatives of the mercantile society Astropharma,” Fernandez said.

According to the CNA complaint, those connected to the incident committed crimes of fraud and illicit association. Astropharma’s company lawyer, Jaime Banegas, said the firm will be conducting its own analysis of drug prices to ensure no illicit over-evaluations were made.

The Health Ministry has yet to comment publicly on the allegations.

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