Former Interim Health Department Secretary, Dr. Concepción Quiñones de Longo, confirmed Wednesday she received calls from an assistant to Governor Wanda Vázquez urging her to sign a contract related to the acquisition of diagnostic tests for Covid-19, without having been evaluated and within a 20-minute period after receiving it.
The name of Marisol Blasco, assistant to the governor, came out again during the executive hearing of House Health Committee, chaired by Representative Juan Oscar Morales.
Quiñones de Longo told the representatives that Blasco called her and asked her to sign within 20 minutes a $40 million contract for the acquisition of early detection tests for coronavirus, but not for the purchase of ventilators, as she had expressed to several news media.
“She [Blasco] called to ask me to sign some documents in 20 minutes,” said the former Interim Secretary of Health to the press after leaving the executive hearing, that began at 9:30 Wednesday morning and lasted until after 2:00 pm.
Quiñones de Longo indicated Blasco asked her to sign on such a short notice the contracts for the tests. “The fact is the contract was for the tests. The ventilators issue also came up that very same day,” she said.
Quiñones de Longo further revealed that Blasco’s intervention in the Health Department was not the only one coming from La Fortaleza. As she had indicated earlier, La Fortaleza’s Chief of Staff Antonio Pabón had also called her, at least once, to warn her not to dismiss Mabel Cabeza because she was an “indispensable” piece for the administration.
The Former Interim Secretary assured she felt like a “rubber stamp,” because she had been asked to sign documents that he had not analyzed. “I did not sign the document that I had not analyze because it was wrong. Those that I did sign, I did after analyzing and obtaining advice from the Department itself, and understanding they were legal,” she explained.
“I mentioned this because they were asking me to act like a rubber stamp and I was not going to give into that,” said, Quiñones de Longo, who also revealed that while she was undersecretary she had learned of irregularities in the Department, which she reported to now former Secretary Rafael Rodríguez Mercado.
Denies being negligent
Asked if that did not involve negligent acts on her part, the former official replied that “there are some things that, when you identify them, are confidential and you discuss them with people on a confidential level. You have a loyalty to people.”
Quiñones de Longo declined to respond whether Rodríguez Mercado had acted or not after she brought complaints about the alleged irregularities at the agency. Likewise, she denied she acted negligently, “as some minority representatives who attended the hearing think.”
She also declined to comment on Adil Rosa, who was in charge of purchases in the department. “I'm not going to comment on that. She was in charge of purchasing and will have to respond herself,” she said.
Quiñones de Longo did not specify whether Medical Task Force coordinator, Dr. Segundo Rodríguez, had also intervened in the Department’s purchasing decisions. “In fact, it was an awkward and difficult situation where my authority as Interim Secretary was not being recognized," she said.
During the hearing, the former secretary presented evidence to the House Health Committee, and anticipated that she would be summoned again because the representatives have other questions.