SHAH ALAM: Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to do away with tendering agents in the procurement of medication for the public healthcare system.
Speaking to reporters after lodging a report at the Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office based on an expose of procurement of medicines by the health ministry, Santiago said the government should procure drugs directly from suppliers.
“Based on the information I received and submitted to the MACC, there are elements of corruption in the procurement,” he said, adding that MACC officers had told him the case would be treated with “high priority”.
In a 12-page document sighted by FMT, it was alleged that companies linked to politicians close to the previous government controlled the supply of billions of ringgit worth of medical drugs to the government.
The document, which listed 20 companies with links to prominent politicians, including ministers in the top levels of the Umno leadership, said these companies acted as “tendering agents”, reaping contracts worth RM3.7 billion between 2013 and 2016.
The tendering agents, according to the document, acted for more than 70 pharmaceutical companies, all of whom used only the “same few official-owned tendering agents”.
Santiago said he had been informed that the value of the contracts between 2013 and 2018 was RM4.8 billion.
He added that the expose indicated why the prices of medication were between 30% and 148% more expensive than in other countries.
Santiago said he had submitted over 150 pages of documents highlighting 427 contracts amounting to RM3.7 billion which were virtually monopolised by three companies.
He declined to reveal the three companies pending investigations, but said they were linked to Umno politicians, civil servants and even political appointees related to 1MDB.
“This is very serious because tendering agents are raking in profits when thousands of Malaysians are unable to buy medication.”
He also said there was a need to regulate the markup on the profits that companies bringing in medicine could make, as well as the regulation of over-the-counter prices.
“In Australia, three different pharmacies would charge the same amount for a certain drug. Here, you may get three different prices.”
He said he would raise the matter with Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali and take it to the Dewan Rakyat.
Santiago also said the health ministry should explain the purpose of tendering agents when the ministry’s pharmaceutical division could procure the drugs directly.
The Malaysian Medical Association had previously called on the authorities to investigate the allegations made in the expose.
Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad subsequently welcomed an investigation by the MACC into the claims of a well-connected monopoly controlling the supply of medicine to government hospitals and clinics.