Health Ministry Ventilator Corruption: ACC responds to PGO claims regarding insufficient evidence

President of ACC Mariyam Shiuna | Photo: Sun

Male’, Maldives – Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has responded to the claims of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) of Maldives – which declined the case of 11 Health Ministry officials requested to be prosecuted by ACC, claiming that enough evidence was not submitted to pursue criminal charges – saying that the prosecution request was made with sufficient evidence.

ACC stated so in a statement released in defense of the claims made by PGO, which read that, as per the Financial Guideline being followed at the time of procuring the ventilators by the Ministry of Health, the circumstances in which the guideline may not be followed while procuring items, services or work for a government office, offices or institutions had been clearly defined. It further read that as per the said guideline, state funds may be utilized as instructed by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury in matters relating to national security, ensuring the interest of the state, mitigating potential long term losses for the state and public, as well as ensuring potential long term benefits of the state and public as well.

Adding on, the statement stated that as the machineries and equipment required to be procured by state due to Covid-19 exceeded MVR 2.5 million, it was required to submit the matter to the National Tender Board. However, when requested to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to make a special exemption, the an allowance was made, as well as an extension of the duration, which was also granted upon request.

ACC went on to detail that, when requested to the Ministry of Finance to allow the procurement of the 75 ventilators via single source procurement, the request was also approved, given that the matter be proposed to the bid committee of the Ministry and dealt with in compliance with the Financial Guideline.

However, ACC reported, that it was found that the Ministry of Health failed to carry out due diligence in ensuring the capacity of Executors General – a Dubai based company which was granted the contract – in supplying the state with 75 ventilators.

“With regards to the procurement of the 75 ventilators for the state, a draft agreement was sent to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) on 20th April, 2020, to which legal advice was provided on the same day. The recommendation by read that signing of a contract without ensuring an advance payment guarantee and a performance guarantee can only be proceeded following the recommendation of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, as stated in 10.03 of the Financial Regulation.

As such, ACC revealed that while the Health Ministry signed the agreement back dated, the institution also failed to get a recommendation of the Ministry of Health, despite being advised to do so by AGO.

Taking all findings into consideration, ACC revealed that the names of the 11 individuals of the Ministry of Health were forwarded to the PGO to be prosecuted along with all necessary and enough evidence to prove corruption and misconduct. It was also revealed that the decision of PGO is being reevaluated.

Despite the rejection of the case from PGO, Health Minister Ameen, who is the main figure in the entire scandal has resigned from office effective Wednesday amidst public and political pressure.