The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Sunday, revealed the launch of three separate corruption probes concerning the government's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the Parliamentary Committee on Independent Institutions, ACC's President Mariyam Shiuna said ACC was looking into suspected corruption in the procurement of ventilators, and complaints of supply contracts being unfairly awarded without due procurement process.
Further, allegations of high ranking government officials using undue influence to reserve seats for friends and family members on COVID19 repatriation flights were being investigated, she said.
National Tender Board member Ismail Zariyand has also made similar claims, alleging that funds allocated for COVID-19 were being embezzled.
During Sunday's parliamentary committee, the ACC disclosed that the government had sought to procure 200 ventilators through two local companies and a United Arab Emirates-based company without a bidding process.
The procurement was made on the 'single source procurement' provision, under which the government selects one vendor over others suppliers.
Earlier, spokesperson for National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) Mabrouq Abdul Azeez revealed that local company 'Nard' was tasked with procuring six portable ventilators and 20 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ventilators, while Medtech Maldives Pvt Ltd procured 50 ventilators. Maldives also collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) to purchase 75 ventilators that will be delivered through United Arab Emirates (UAE)'s Executors General Trading.
Parliamentarians also have raised alarm over the ventilator supply contracts, citing cheaper prices quoted by State Trading Organization (STO).
Responding to the allegations, Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen claimed that the government had chosen to proceed with the selected vendors due to their reliability.
Expanding further, ACC president said it was too early to make a determination on foul play, adding that the findings of the investigation will be publicized once completed.
ACC has held formal meetings with the National Disaster Management Centre, and requested for relevant documentation from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and parent company of the national airline 'Island Aviation Services' to complete its investigations.
Vice President of ACC Fathimath Anoola stressed the need for a full audit of the public health emergency as soon as the crisis is overcome.
Meanwhile, last week the ACC published a guideline on corruption prevention, stressing the need to ensure fairness and transparency in government's relief efforts to combat COVID-19. It cited higher incidence of corruption amidst crises such as the 2004 Tsunami and 'Minivan 50' independence day.
Presently, Maldives records 551 confirmed, 531 active cases of COVID-19 and a total of 17 recoveries. The country recorded its first virus death, of an 83-year-old local female, on April 29.
Following the first confirmed local transmission on April 15, Malé has recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. The city is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 3.6 million people and claimed over 252,420 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 1.2 million people have recovered.