State Minister of Health, Shah Mahir has been placed on suspension amid corruption probe.
A compliance audit report on the ministry’s COVID-19 related expenses showed the ministry tasked the purchase of ventilators to a Dubai company in violation of the due procedures.
In a statement issued on Monday night, Shah said he was not involved in the ventilator bid and that documentation at the ministry would reflect the same. When the bid was awarded to the foreign company, he brought issues around the bid to the attention of senior health officials. While the first 10 ventilators purchased by the company were not the product the ministry tasked the company to purchase, Shah raised the issue with the Health Minister as well as other top officials of the government, he said.
Noting that he has been ordered by the President’s Office not to report for his duties until the investigation is concluded, Shah said he deeply regrets the government’s decision. He further assured that he would assist and cooperate with the government with its corruption probe.
All health officials involved in awarding the project has been placed on suspension, including members of the ministry’s bid committee and Financial Executives.
The report, signed by Auditor General Ahmed Ziyath, said Executors General Trading’s financial and technical capacity was not taken into consideration in awarding the project to the party. While the procurement of 75 ventilators was tasked to the company for MVR 4,502,250, the due procedures were not followed in awarding the project to the company, said the report. There has been no previous communication between the Maldives government and the company prior to this project, it further noted.
The report also noted that the Health Ministry in its documents implied that the company is a WHO recommended company. However, the company is not among WHO-recommended suppliers, said the report. While the company has not had any communications with WHO, the organization has confirmed that it did not at any point shared a list of recommended suppliers with the ministry, said the report.
The Audit report also noted in detail that neither a performance guarantee nor an advance payment guarantee was provided despite 90 percent of the agreement amount being disbursed to the company. While sensible judgement was ignored in disbursing funds in advance, no permission was sought in writing from the Finance Ministry with regard to matters pertaining to the performance guarantee, said the report.
It was also noticed that the ministry’s biomedical engineer’s opinion regarding the ventilators in question was disregarded prior to the bid committee’s decision to award the project. The ventilators were not procured and delivered within the agreed time frame, it further said. The report called on authorities to further investigate the matter, further noting that the procedure followed in awarding projects to local companies to procure ventilators were also carried out against regulations.