'Will not withhold info on ventilator scandal'

Health Minister Ahmed Naseem has stated that the government would not withhold information on the ventilator corruption case. The minister made the statement at the Parliament while answering lawmakers’ questions at Wednesday’s sitting.

A compliance audit report showed that the Health Ministry had not acted according to regulations in awarding a contract to procure 75 ventilators for the Maldives. The report revealed that the company that was tasked with the procurement is not a WHO-recommended supplier, as previously reported by the government.

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, and while the Health Ministry in its documents implied that the company is a WHO recommended company, 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.

During Wednesday's Parliament sitting, Bilehdhoo MP Ahmed Haleem inquired from the minister whether the funds related to the scandal can be recovered or if the ordered ventilators would arrive in the Maldives at any point. While the minister did not give a direct answer to the questions, Naseem said the corruption took place before he took charge of the ministry, and that a letter has been sent to the Parliament with all the details of the case. Any additional information required by the Parliament or any other investigative authority will be provided, assured Naseem.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) concluded its investigation into the case and first requested PGO to raise charges against those involved on October 14, 2020. The Prosecutor General’s Office informed the commission on October 19, 2020 that there were no grounds to seek charges, noting six main points. ACC then reviewed the case and once again requested ACC to raise charges later on October 25, 2020.

However, no response was received from the PGO regarding ACC’s second request for several months, and PGO finally informed ACC that it cannot move forward with charging those involved earlier this week.
PGO changed its decision and decided to review the case once again on Monday after harsh public criticism was aimed at the office for deciding against moving forward with the case, despite the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) stating that it had enough evidence to press charges. The decision to review the case came while members of both main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition MPs called for the resignation of Prosecutor General, Hussain Shameem.

Former Health Minister Abdulla Ameen resigned from his post after the corruption came to light. Two deputy ministers at the ministry were also placed on suspension and still remain on suspension.