‘No accountability’ not acceptable in ventilator procurement

PETALING JAYA: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on ventilator procurement has raised its own set of questions, especially since the purchase seemed to go beyond the expertise and function of Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB).

Galen Centre CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib asked who instructed PLSB, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Bhd, to make the purchase and who recommended the Chinese company that supplied the 136 ventilators to health facilities under the Health Ministry between April 1, 2020 and May 19, 2020.

“It is clear from the report that Pharmaniaga was taken advantage of by the government as a GLC to receive the order, make payment and take delivery of these ventilators, an area which was beyond the expertise and function of Pharmaniaga,” he told The Star yesterday.

Azrul also asked if the PAC managed to obtain the messages related to the procurement, which were reported to have been exchanged over WhatsApp.

“In countries such as the United Kingdom, where inquiries into the Covid-19 response are ongoing, hiding behind WhatsApp communication doesn’t work because those inquiries have demanded copies and records of those messages,” he said.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said since PLSB had no previous experience in purchasing medical equipment, there was more reason to request documentation and explanation.

“The dealings for the procurement of ventilators may have taken place at a most extraordinary time; however, if the usual procurement process was not possible, at the very least, proper documentation should have been insisted upon for transparency and accountability,” she said.

Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii stressed that the MACC must investigate the matter and that more measures should be taken to demand accountability and identify the parties responsible for the “clear negligence” in the ventilator scandal.

“Was there proper due diligence done on the suppliers in China on their ability and competency to supply such important life-saving equipment, even during an emergency, and were there any undue influence for such suppliers to be chosen?

“We should dig deeper to establish greater accountability especially to those involved,” he said.

On accountability, Transparency International Malaysia president Dr Muhammad Mohan said the PAC report proved that it is almost non-existent in the public procurement system.

He said any official procurement confirmation must come through a proper supply contract with clear specifications.

“There must be a procurement standard operating procedure in the Health Ministry. Covid-19 is not an excuse to violate the guidelines. So why was this not followed? Who is accountable for this?

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