PETALING JAYA: The health ministry should report any elements of corruption involved in the purchase of ventilators at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, says Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) president Muhammad Mohan.
This comes in the wake of a recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report that exposed a breach of procurement protocols while finding that 104 out of the 136 ventilators ordered were unusable.
“It is shocking to know that deals on emergency procurement of ventilators were carried out on WhatsApp.
“There must be procurement SOPs in the health ministry. Covid-19 is not an excuse to violate SOPs. So, why were they not followed? Who is accountable for this?” he asked in a statement released today.
Muhammad said the PAC’s findings show a severe lack of accountability within the public procurement system. If not addressed, he said the country would not improve its standing in the annual TI corruption perception index.
“TI-Malaysia strongly urges current health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa to get to the bottom of this scandal.
“She must explain to the media or Parliament what action has been taken to address it and how the ministry intends to prevent this from happening again.”
He said official procurement confirmation should always follow proper supply contracts, including detailed specifications of the product, warranties, supplier obligations for testing and commissioning, deliverables and technical support.
Muhammad said equally concerning was Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd’s involvement in acting as a middleman for the procurement of ventilators worth RM24.1 million.
He said this was done without a proper contract, further raising questions about the health ministry’s accountability and transparency in procurement procedures.
He said the former health minister and secretary-general should give an explanation for this as it happened under their watch.
“It is strange the unit for integrity and compliance in the health ministry did not have oversight on this. Or did someone higher up overrule their advice on the procedures?
“Civil servants are not speaking up. This is the problem in our country. They fail to understand that as civil servants they have fiduciary duties to protect taxpayers’ money,” he said.
The PAC report found that even though Pharmaniaga Logistics lacked experience in procuring medical equipment of this type, it was instructed to make an upfront payment due to its “existing relationship with the health ministry”.
The report, released yesterday, also stated that the absence of a written agreement between the ministry and Pharmaniaga Logistics had resulted in a lack of accountability for the faulty equipment.
MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz earlier said the report raised more questions than answers, including the procurement of ventilators supplied to the government.
“How 104 out of 136 delivered ventilators were unusable, without any party being held accountable, demands a thorough explanation,” she said in a statement.