Board to tap private lawyer to pursue ICS case


The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. wants to tap the services of a private lawyer to pursue its case against the agency’s former billing and collection contractor, which up to this time has not returned the money the corporation wrongfully gave it.

This was the consensus reached by the corporation board during Thursday’s special meeting after learning that the International Consulting Services has yet to return the money.

The CHCC has been running after Idaho-based ICS since 2012 to retrieve a total of $187,000, representing $150,000 that was wrongfully deposited to the company’s account and $37,000 in advanced payment for services that did not materialize.

On Thursday, interim CEO Esther Muña said she has nothing new to report on the ICS matter as the Office of the Attorney General has yet to act on the issue.

It’s been almost two years since the government terminated the contract of then-hospital contractor ICS, but nothing has been moving on the “investigation” of the Office of the Public Auditor and the OAG.

CHCC board chair Joaquin Torres recommended to fellow trustees that they hire a private lawyer who would specifically work on the ICS issue.

“If the OAG can’t commit [to this matter], our plan is to tap the services of a private counsel who can handle the job for us. That’s the consensus of the board,” Torres later told Saipan Tribune.

Torres said he plans to meet with Attorney General Joey San Nicolas next week to clear, once and for all, whether the agency has time to do it for the corporation.

Board officials said they have been following up on the ICS issue but have yet to get a response from both the OAG and OPA, which are investigating the matter.

In an earlier interview, San Nicolas confirmed with Saipan Tribune that there is an ongoing investigation but he could not give a timeframe as to when it will be completed.

The CHCC board pointed out that the nearly $200,000 the corporation is trying to recoup from the company is no small amount for the government to ignore.

ICS secured a six-year, sole-source contract in February 2012 to do billing and collection work for the hospital. Former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham later determined the contract to be costly and unlawful and issued a cease-and-desist order.

The fallout from that failed deal resulted in the sudden termination of the hospital’s chief operating officer, James Phillips, as he was the direct contact for the agreement and the matter was referred to the OAG for prosecution.

The board earlier wanted not only an investigation on the Idaho-based company itself but also on the potential involvement of a corporation director who, based on the board’s internal probe, may have had a hand in the company’s “illegal” transaction with the corporation.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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