Auditor General Hassan Ziyath, on Tuesday, stated that the Ministry of Health's bid committee displayed obvious negligence with regard to the controversial procurement of ventilators to support Maldives' COVID-19 response.
"It is clear to us that the bid committee failed to fulfil its responsibilities", asserted the Auditor General, while speaking at the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.
The compliance audit report released by the Auditor General's Office (AG) on Sunday, revealed that the health ministry had spent millions in violation of the Public Finance Act, whilst claiming to procure ventilators and other medical supplies.
Per the audit, the health ministry's negotiations with Dubai company Executors General Trading, to procure 75 ventilators, were rife with corruption, including claims that the order was placed following a recommendation by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ziyath highlighted that the Auditor General's Office was unable to identify the individual that had released funds to Executors without providing an official guarantee of an advance payment. He elaborated that the health ministry's Financial Controller Ahmed Aslam had not responded to queries with direct answers.
The state has already paid MVR 30.9 million for the ventilators, covering 90 percent of the total cost of MVR 34 million.
In response to questions pertaining to the allegations raised against Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen, Ziyath disclosed that the agreement with Executors was finalised following unofficial discussions between Minister Ameer and WHO Representative to Maldives Dr Arvind Mathur.
Guaranteeing that the WHO had not recommended contracting the Dubai-based company, the Auditor General expressed the necessity of other state institutions investigating the extent of Minister Ameen's involvement in the deal, after highlighting that such an inquiry would not fall under the AG Office mandate.
The compliance audit also noted that agreements signed with Naadu Pvt Ltd and MedTech Maldives Pvt Ltd to acquire a total of 76 ventilators, were formulated in a manner damaging to the state and seemingly, deliberately steered towards enriching certain entities.
Furthermore, while all three companies failed to procure the equipment before the specified deadline, 10 ventilators provided by Executors did not meet standards stipulated in the agreements and subsequently could not be used to treat COVID-19 patients.
On Monday, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih suspended several senior officials sitting on the health ministry's bid committee as well as Financial Controller Ahmed Aslam.
Following the public uproar over the corruption allegations revealed by the Auditor General's Office, Minister Ameen also recused himself from all duties until the conclusion of the investigation.