KUALA LUMPUR: The minister who was ultimately responsible for ventilator procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic should be called up to answer for any issues, says a Pakatan Harapan lawmaker.
Chong Zhemin (PH-Kampar) questioned why Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam), who was transport minister at the time, had to be questioned by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for his supposed involvement in the procurement process.
“Why must the blame be on Ayer Hitam? I am here to defend Ayer Hitam. This wasn’t his responsibility but that of the health minister,” he said when debating Budget 2024 at the committee stage on Monday (Nov 20).
Chong later questioned if Dr Wee’s supposed involvement showed the health minister's failure to carry out duties during the Perikatan Nasional administration.
“This isn’t a lot of money as it's just RM24mil, but it involves lives. We can earn money back if it's stolen but if lives are lost, they cannot be returned,” he said.
Chong also questioned who had the final call on the purchase of the ventilators.
“Who gave the final approval? That person has to answer, and to me, that is former health minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.
“It doesn’t matter if Ayer Hitam was involved in negotiations, but the final approval came from the health minister and he has to be responsible,” he said, in reference to the PAC report that no party can be made accountable in the procurement.
This was because no contract had been drawn up as the ventilators were procured through WhatsApp.
It was reported that 104 out of the 136 ventilators supplied by Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB) to the Health Ministry at a total cost of RM24.1mil ended up being unusable.
On Sept 21, Dr Wee said he had given his full cooperation to the PAC in its proceedings related to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The MCA president said he was called by the PAC as a witness to assist the discussion on the procurement of assets, including ventilators and face masks from China.
"I would like to record my gratitude to PAC chairman Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, who had concluded that she was satisfied with my explanations," he had told a press conference in Parliament.
Dr Wee said he had taken all questions from the PAC members who sought clarification on the matter.
"I can still recall what happened from day one, including my role in helping the ministry to make orders and to buy ventilators from China.
“My role was to make sure that face masks and ventilators were delivered to Malaysia," he said, adding that he would not comment on the details of the proceedings and would let the report be tabled first in the Dewan Rakyat.
The first PAC proceeding on Covid-19 pandemic management was conducted on June 15 with the second on Aug 22.
Mas Ermieyati later said the PAC needed an explanation from Dr Wee as his name was mentioned in previous proceedings.