Dubai company Executors General Trading LLC, on Wednesday, delivered 10 of the 75 ventilators that were procured from the company, by the Maldives' government, for the country's COVID-19 response.
The ventilators were supplied as a replacement for the 10 previously delivered ventilators, which were deemed as not fit, per the specifications laid out in the agreement. A team of doctors, nurses and biomedical engineers concluded that these ventilators were not suitable for COVID-19 treatment.
Health Ministry previously stated that the supplier assured that they will send WEINMANN brand ventilators in place of the 10 ventilators which the Health Ministry rejected following the assessment.
Ministry of Health's Deputy Director General Thasleema Usman confirmed that the replacement ventilators were currently at Velana International Airport (VIA).
She further disclosed that Executors General Trading was warned that, if the new ventilators did not fit the requirements, the ministry would reject the shipment.
The Dubai company is contracted to deliver further 65 ICU ventilators, for which the company has yet to provide a timeline.
Under the controversial deal, the supplier was tasked with delivering the 75 ventilators within 29 days of receiving the full payment of MVR 34 million. The state has already paid an advance payment of MVR 30 million, without a bank guarantee, covering 90 percent of the total cost.
On August 16, the Auditor General's (AG) Office released a compliance audit report on the Health Ministry's spending of state funds for the COVID-19 response, which revealed that the ministry had spent millions in violation of the Public Finance Act, whilst claiming to procure ventilators and other medical supplies.
Health Ministry claimed that the advance payment was issued without a bank guarantee due to the urgency in acquiring ventilators. Since the global demand for ventilators was high, the ministry stated that the supplier demanded a daily payment of USD 25,000 if the ventilators were not reserved within a certain time period.
Currently, the Anti-Corruption Commission and Maldives Police Service are conducting a joint investigation into the health ministry's COVID-19 expenditures highlighted in the audit report.
However, Minister Ameen, along with the ministry's officials have maintained that the procurement of supplies was exempt from corruption.
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 the financial controller.
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 investigation is concluded.
The ministry is currently headed by the acting minister Mohamed Aslam, the incumbent Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure.