Transparency Maldives raises concern over ACC’s decision on ventilator corruption case

Former Minister of Health of Maldives Abdullah Ameen | Photo: President's Office

Malé, Maldives – Transparency Maldives has raised their concern over Anti Corruption Commission of Maldives decision to file the corruption cases of eight individuals concerning the purchase of ventilators during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MVR 30 million scandal which involved former Health Minister Abdullah Ameen and 10 others was repeatedly sent back to ACC by the Prosecutor Generals Office (PGO) due to insufficient evidence to prove the charges in court. The decision to file the case of the 8 individuals was taken earlier this week by ACC.

In a press statement by TM today, the organization said that the filing of the case raised questions on the political will of the current administration to tackle corruption and the capacity of the investigative bodies to conduct independent investigations.

The lack of transparency also raises concerns regarding the selective application of justice and the impunity enjoyed by those in power, affecting the public trust in the system.

Transparency Maldives

The statement also read that unfair advantage was given to Dubai-based Executors General Trading as upfront payment of 90 per cent of the total value was paid to them through the use of single source procurement procedures using false information and the absence of a performance and advance payments guarantee, and selecting a brand of ventilators that was not agreed by the bid committee of the ministry.

Transparency Maldives also called on the institutions responsible for investigating such cases to put aside their own interests and differences, and to act with integrity to make public interest the highest priority.

TM further added that identifying and taking legal action against those who have directly and indirectly benefited from this ventilator corruption is an important step towards addressing corruption vulnerabilities and closing the doors to corruption in the Maldives.

TM also listed out recommendation to the government relevant institutions to take the necessary measure to eliminate corruption. These are;

  • Proactively disclose as much information as possible regarding these corruption scandals to the public to increase trust,
  • Amend and implement all policies and procedures to align with the Government’s policy of zero tolerance to corruption,
  • Ensure that independent institutions are free from political influences and are fully independent to undertake their legal obligations
  • Parliament to ensure that all institutions mandated to fight corruption are financially competent, trained, and well-resourced to discharge their responsibilities.
  • Ministry of Finance to ensure that all State institutions properly implement the public finance laws, regulations and policies, and take action against those who violate the public finance laws, regulations and policies hold them accountable

The decision to file the case of the 8 individuals involved in the case was finally made after the Prosecutor General’s Office (PG) repeatedly sent the case back to ACC. Prior to this, the Commission had sent the case to the PG Office thrice after revision as requested by PG. However, it got sent back each time.

The fourth time – however, the new ACC members were told by PG Office that out of the 11 people in question concerning the case, eight will not be prosecuted. Following this response, the ACC decided to file the case concerning these individuals. However, as PG Office is yet to determine the fate of the remaining three, ACC will not be filing their cases as of yet.

ACC had previously claimed that the case was forwarded to PG for prosecution after determining violations of the public finance legislations, and undue profits, through investigations.

In total, Ameen and 10 employees of the Health Ministry were either suspended or fired regarding the ventilator corruption case. The completed investigations by the ACC to date has provided no proof of a money trail connecting the 12 individuals to any profits from the ventilator corruption case.

While Maldives’ Ministry of Health paid MVR 30.91 million to Dubai’s Executors General Trading LLC contracting the company to supply 75 ventilators when the Covid-19 virus started spreading in the Maldives, only 15 ventilators were supplied by them to date. From the 15 they had sent, 5 had missing parts which has not been accepted by the government.