Ventilator corruption: PG upholds decision to not prosecute the case

Prosecutor General of Maldives Hussain Shameem | Photo: Sun

Malé, Maldives – Anti Corruptions Commission of Maldives (ACC) has revealed that Prosecutor General has decided not to go ahead with the prosecution of the people alleged for the corruption involved in the awarding of contracts by the Ministry of Health to procure ventilators for the state.

The issue was investigated by ACC after an audit by the Auditor General’s Office suggested foul play in all three contracts awarded by the Ministery of Health, to procure 142 ventilators for the state. These include the agreements made between Executors General Trading LLC for 75 ventilators, MedTech Maldives Pvt Ltd for 50 ventilators and with Naadu Pvt Ltd to acquire 24 ventilators, out of which the agreement with Executors General which became the most controversial of all.

ACC had forwarded 11 names, including that of Minister Ameen, to the Prosecutor General’s Office to be charged with corruption under part (a)(2) of section 511, part (a) of section 512, part (b) of section 513 and part (a)(1) of section 313 of the Penal Code of Maldives. However, PGO revealed that due to insufficient evidence they have taken the decision to not prosecute any of the 11 individuals and sent back the report regarding ventilator corruption back to ACC.

According to ACC, PG had decided to uphold their earlier decision and not to go ahead with the prosecution stating that there was no new reason for changing PGs earlier stance on the case.

Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) had previously responded to the claims of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) saying that the prosecution request was made with insufficient evidence.

ACC stated 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.

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.

The incumbent Health Minister of Maldives, Ahmed Naseem spoke also spoke recently regarding the arrival date of these ventilators and informed that they are still not sure of an exact date for when the ventilators will arrive. He also anticipated that from the actions of the Dubai company, it does not seem like they would be sending the remaining 60 ventilators to Maldives. 

Minister Naseem informed that the ministry has requested the Attorney General’s Office for advice on how to further carry out the ventilator issue. 

We have to stick to one thing on this ventilator issue, either to accept those ventilators or to patiently wait till they send the remaining ventilators.

Health Minister Naseem 

However, Minister Naseem noted that if there is an issue that needs to be investigated, then they will do so and if there is an issue that must be sent for appealing, then it will be sent as well. He then stated that the ventilator issue is something that happened long before he became the Minister of Health so he is not sure of how things will work out. 

Among those who were requested by ACC to be prosecuted under part (a)(2) of section 511, part (a) of section 512, part (b) of section 513 and part (a)(1) of section 313 of the Penal Code of Maldives, are;

  • Minister Abdullah Ameen
  • Director Financial Executive Ahmed Aslam
  • Deputy Minister Nishama Mohamed
  • Deputy Minister Shiyama Mohamed
  • Director Naushad Ali
  • Bid Committee Member Aminath Shaufa
  • Assistant Director Fathimath Limya
  • Legal Officer Ali Shihaam
  • Assistant Director Abdullah Hafeez, and
  • Assistant Administrative officer Hussain Niyazk

Detailing the accusations, it was highlighted that it was Minister Ameen who introduced the owner of Executors General Dr. Ali Al Thakhumathee to the Ministry and that it was the Minister himself who initiated the handing over of the contract to the company.

Following a joint investigation by the ACC and Maldives Police Service, it was revealed that former Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen and 11 employees of the ministry were involved with the expenditure of over MVR 30 million in violation of the Public Finance Act.