Housing minister appointed as acting Health Minister

The Health Ministry has been temporarily handed over to Housing Minister, Mohamed Aslam.

The compliance audit issued by the Auditor General’s Office said the ministry’s actions in awarding a bid to purchase ventilators pave way for corruption. Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has ordered Maldives Police Service and the Anti-Corruption Commission, ACC to investigate the matter.

The Health Minister Abdulla Ameen isolated himself from his duties in the wake of a probe on the ministry’s COVID-19 related spending. In a letter addressed to the President, Minister Ameen said he has chosen to step aside from his responsibilities as Health Minister until the investigation is completed, or until the President instructs otherwise.

Meanwhile, health ministry officials involved in approving the agreement and signing official documentation have been suspended. The suspended officials include bid committee members and members of finance executives and the ministry’s state minister.

The Audit Office revealed the information in a compliance audit report on the COVID-19 related expenses incurred by the Health Ministry. The report, signed by Auditor General Ahmed Ziyath, said Dubai company, Executors General Trading’s financial and technical capacity was not taken into consideration when 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 share 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.