Maldives Police Service and the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) on Saturday confirmed their joint investigation into the controversial tender for 149 ventilators, issued by the Ministry of Health for the government's COVID-19 response.
Speaking at an earlier parliamentary session, Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen had stated that out of the 149 ventilators, the procurement of 75 was handed over to Dubai company Executors General Trading LLC on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
However, a compliance audit report by the Auditor General's Office, on the health ministry's spending of state funds over the COVID-19 response, disclosed that WHO had not informed the ministry to procure ventilators through Executors General Trading.
The Dubai company was one of the three companies tasked with the procurement of ventilators for Maldives' COVID-19 response. The state has already settled an advance payment of MVR 30.9 million for the ventilators, covering 90 percent of the total cost of MVR 34 million.
Moreover, the audit noted that the health ministry's advance payment to Executors was in violation of the Public Finance Act, which mandates the state to acquire a performance guarantee by the companies.
The Auditor General's Office further stated that the advance payment was to be deposited to a private account as requested by the health ministry, but it was denied by the Ministry of Finance.
Regarding the two remaining firms, Naadu Pvt Ltd and MedTech Maldives, Auditor General Hassan Ziyath stated that agreements with the two local companies were formulated in a manner that incurred loss to the state and seemingly 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.
In connection with the controversy, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has 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.
The ministry is now headed by the acting minister Mohamed Aslam, the incumbent Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure.