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Health Minister Ameen questioned over ventilator controversy

Mariyam Malsa
28 September 2020, MVT 16:07
Minister Ameen was summoned for questionaing by ACC in connection to the investigation launched following the controversial handover of 149 ventilators tendered by the Ministry of Health. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Mariyam Malsa
28 September 2020, MVT 16:07

Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen, on Sunday, was summoned for questioning regarding the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)'s investigation into the fraudulent procurement of 149 ventilators.

ACC launched its joint investigation with the Maldives Police Service in August after the the Auditor General's Office published a compliance audit on the Ministry of Health's COVID expenditure, revealing that the ministry had spent over MVR 30 million in violation of the Public Finance Act.

As part of the government's COVID-19 response efforts, the health ministry had signed agreements with Naadu Pvt Ltd to procure 24 ventilators and MedTech Maldives Pvt Ltd to secure 50 ventilators, in addition to the 75 ventilators from Dubai-based Executors General Trading LLC.

Per the audit, the health ministry's negotiations with Executors were rife with corruption, including false claims that the order was placed following a recommendation by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The state has already paid MVR 30.9 million for the 75 ventilators, covering 90 percent of the total cost of MVR 34 million.

Additionally, the audit report revealed that agreements with local companies Naadu Pvt Ltd and MedTech Maldives 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 August 17, Minister Ameen recused himself from all official duties until the conclusion of the investigation amid public uproar over the corruption allegations revealed by the Auditor General's Office. The health ministry is currently being temporarily spearheaded by the Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also suspended several senior officials sitting on the health ministry's bid committee as well as Financial Controller Ahmed Aslam.

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