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The case investigates agreements with private companies that were supposed to provide 12 million masks, for a total amount
of approximately $4 million.  - A.M. Costa Rica wire services illustrative photo -

Published Monday, September 21, 2020

Two more suspects investigated for
$4 million disposable facemask deal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Social Security announced a precautionary measure against two additional employees of the Logistics Management department, as part of the investigation process carried out by the institution for an alleged anomaly of a $4 million deal for purchasing about 12 million disposable facemasks.

The case investigates agreements with private companies that were supposed to provide 12 million masks, for a total amount of approximately $4 million. It is alleged that the masks do not meet the appropriate technical requirements for use by healthcare workers.

These two new suspects are the director of the Department of Provider of Goods and Services, and the manager of the Department of Purchases of Goods and Services. However, Social Security did not provide the names of the two workers.

The two suspects were not suspended, instead they were, as a precautionary measure, transferred for three months to another department and remain working in Social Security.

The precautionary measure amplifies the need for better management in order to improve public services provided by Social Security through the Logistics Management Department for ensuring all needs are met during the pandemic, Social Security said.

In addition to the two workers who were relocated to other offices, Social Security announced that it is investigating nine more employees related to the case.

In August, Social Security suspended four employees for four months with pay for the same investigation: Luis Fernando Porras-Melendez manager of the logistics department, and two other employees who worked as advisers in the same department, surnamed Vindas- Céspedes and Díaz- Rivera.

Deputies of the Commission of Income and Public Expenses of the Congress, approved a motion to open an investigation on the processes taken for the purchase and agreements carried out by Social Security, concerning the acquisition of masks and protective supplies for the healthcare workers of the institution.

According to the brief information provided by Congress, as part of the investigation, the following Social Security workers will be summoned to a hearing:

 • Román Macaya-Hayes, President.

 • Luis Fernando Porras, suspended in August.

 • Hans Vindas-Cerdas, Legal Advisor.

 • Olger Fernández-Carrillo, Internal Auditor.

 • Soraya Solano-Acuña, Technical Commission.

 • Nidia Medrano-Durán, Technical Commission.

 • Esteban Corrales-Vega, Technical Commission.

Two more people, who’s titles were not mentioned, will be called to the hearing, David Landergren-Castro, and Miren Martínez- Ruíz.

In July, Social Security recalls the disposable masks bought during the pandemic. The organization began a process of recovering disposable surgical masks that were handed over to the health workers.

According to the authorities, the masks that must be returned were purchased in the lot 20200428-001, which must be changed by the supplier in the event of a possible labeling error in its packaging.

The nationwide recall of the masks was made to all the health units in the country that received supplies from that lot. A material error was identified in the inspection of the packaging box labeling, said the now suspended Logistics Manager of Social Security.

According to Porras, "the purchase was correct, the product met the safety and protection requirement."

This purchase was made on an emergency basis. However, Social Security does not provide the name of the company that sold the masks.

The people in charge of reviewing the products and managing the purchases are nursing professionals from different medical centers with extensive experience, who carried out the review focused on the quality of the samples, Social Security said.

Specialists verified the international certifications before the purchase. This consisted of testing permeability, functionality, seal and then verifying the three layers of filtration.

The material error, which does not change the quality of the product, occurs when inspecting the labeling of the box where it indicated, “no medical.”

In other words, it is presumed that the label for the masks was incorrect or the items are not for use by workers in the medical field.

According to the authorities, the masks were received at the Social Security warehouses on June 30 and immediately distributed to health workers. Social Security was responding to the need to supply medical centers with this essential equipment.

The administrative steps have already been taken with the supplier company to get the correct masks, said Porras.

Social Security has purchased and distributed among health workers more than 30 million units of personal protective equipment in the last 6 months as part of the emergency plan during the covid-19 pandemic facing the country, he added.

Social Security did not disclose yet how many masks must be returned to the provider company.

Meanwhile, healthcare workers continue attending an increasing number of deaths caused by covid-19.

As of Sunday, the Ministry of Health reported the following on the statistics of the virus in the country:

1,338 new covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 39,454 active cases. The ages of patients infected range from a three-month-old baby to a 100-year-old person.

12,404 foreign-born people have been infected with a total of 63,712 cases since March, approximately 19.4% of the total cases.

• 620 patients are being treated in public hospitals, where 247 patients are in ICU’s in delicate health conditions (ages range from 23 to a 91-year-old person). And 373 patients are in recovery rooms. The majority of the rest of the infected patients are quarantined in their homes.

• 23,552 coronavirus patients have fully recovered, which is a 37% recovery rate of the total cases since March.

• 121,292 people have been ruled out.

• 199,713 medical covid-19 tests have been made.

706 deaths of people infected with covid-19, approximately 1.1% death rate of the total cases since March. Of these 270 were women and 436 men. The ages range from 19 to a 100-year-old person.

As of Aug. 31, authorities confirmed the death of 31 foreign-born patients. The youngest and most recent victim was a 19-year-old woman who lived in Guanacaste Province. Before then, on July 30, the ministry announced they would not provide updated information on foreign-born people who died from covid-19 in the country, which at the time authorities reported 30 had died from the virus since March.

Readers can see the updated number of total patients in each district at the National Distance Education University on its
Covid-19 Map.

As of Sunday night, the pandemic has killed 961,066 patients worldwide, according to recent statistics reported by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Should the Prosecutor’s Office also open an investigation into the purchasing process for the disposable face masks? 
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