Babauta lambastes Kilili for ‘stealing credit’

» Says grant competitive, not politically influenced
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CEO Juan N. Babauta lambasted U.S. Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan yesterday for allegedly stealing credit with the federal grant recently awarded to the Kagman Community Health Center.

Babauta told Saipan Tribune yesterday that the grant application for the Kagman health center project was written by staff of the Department of Public Health and was submitted to the Health Resources and Services Administration on Dec. 15, 2010.

This grant, a competitive one, is commonly referred to as the 330 grant under Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHC.

Babauta disclosed that the CNMI application scored 96 out of 100 rating, which became the basis for the grant approval amounting to $608,333.

“The application was approved on merit, not because Kilili asked HRSA associate administrator James Macrae to allow the application to be considered without the need for a sixth new application. Kilili made it sound as though he interjected political influence unto Mr. Macrae and persuaded him to approve the application. Mr. Macrae is a professional and I give him more credit than that,” said Babauta, alluding to a press release Sablan issued last week about the grant’s approval.

Babauta said he even spent hours meeting with HHS official at Region 9 Public Health Offices in San Francisco in February 2012 where he said there was never any mention about Sablan having anything to do with the Kagman health center grant.

The application, he said, was written in collaboration with several individuals within as well as outside public health. Babauta cited Esther Muña of the Medicaid program who supplied the financial information of the application, being the hospital’s former finance officer and acting deputy secretary.

Babauta revealed that the Kagman Community Health Center board also met monthly to provide community input and guidance in the development of the application. He said the board approved the application before submission.

It was disclosed that Arielle Buyum was responsible for the final drafting and submission of the application under the guidance of then deputy secretary John Tagabuel.

In Sablan’s statement, he indicated that “scores have gotten better, especially after he met with HHS officials in 2009.”

Babauta took exception to this, saying the score got better because the staff at Public Health and the Kagman Community Health Center board submitted a superior application, not because of Sablan’s meeting with HHS officials.

“This is Kilili’s way to make it look like he exerted his political influence on HHS officials to get approval. It’s a competitive grant, not a politically influenced grant. Furthermore, HHS officials are professionals. They review applications on merit, not on political influence,” said Babauta.

According to him, Public Health and the Kagman Health Center board are co-applicants in the grant application and it was among the 850 applications received nationally.

In April this year, the healthcare corporation board, Babauta, representatives of the Community Health Center, Public Health director Roxanne Diaz, and Arielle Buyum met to consider submission of letter of intent to HRSA to pursue the application with a certain critical consideration-that it commit a matching grant of 50/50 with actual cash and or with in-kind contribution.

“It was decided that the risk was worth taking. The letter of intent was submitted by the corporation and the grant received approval,” he added.

Babauta said that Sablan must give credit where it is due, particularly on this project.

“Many had a hand in making this grant possible and it is only right that I set the record straight, especially when so many of these individuals are or were employees of the former Department of Public Health, now the healthcare corporation. These individual and the community of Kagman deserve the credit,” he said.

Babauta added: “In college, especially in graduate school and in life generally, when you take credit for something you didn’t do, it is called plagiarism. When a student is caught plagiarizing, it is cause for expulsion. This is the moral of this message. This is not about politics, it is about giving credit where it’s due and respecting and recognizing those who actually did the work.”

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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