KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) has called on the Health Ministry to clarify his role in the procurement of ventilators during the Covid-19 crisis.
Dr Wee told the Dewan Rakyat the directive to buy the ventilators came from the National Security Council and Cabinet between March 20 and 25, 2020.
"I did not assist in the purchase of the ventilators. I just helped (with the) transport of four things: face masks, ventilators, intensive care unit beds and personal protective equipment. I was responsible for that," he said when interjecting during Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa's winding-up speech at the committee level on Monday (Nov 20).
Dr Wee said he decided to post social media updates on the issue to inform the public that they had arrived safely, not because he was responsible for their purchase.
"In the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report, you can read... former Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min (saying) he made the decision on the procurement of the ventilators.
"There was nothing to do with Wee Ka Siong," he said.
Dr Wee said although three hours were allocated by the PAC to question him on the issue during their probe of the Covid-19 crisis management, he only took 30 minutes to explain his role.
He said he was perplexed when the PAC asked about the ventilators' condition.
"Today you (PAC) call me in, only now do I know (the ventilators were) not functioning," he said in reference to the PAC hearing he attended on Sept 21.
He stressed that his role was only to deliver the items.
"My job is finished. Mission accomplished.
"I want this to be minuted, and I want to defend myself.
"I will not let anything or anyone tarnish my image," Dr Wee added.
The Ayer Hitam MP said he decided to speak up after his name was mentioned by Chong Zhemin (PH-Kampar) eight times during his Budget 2024 speech.
During his debate, Chong defended Dr Wee's supposed involvement in the ventilator procurement purchase during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He asked about Dr Wee's role in the matter as he was transport minister at the time, not the health minister.
"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.
Chong wanted to know who had the final say in the procurement 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 the negotiations, but the final approval came from the health minister and he has to be responsible," he said.
In the PAC report released on Oct 30, it was stated that 104 of the 136 ventilators supplied by Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB) to the Health Ministry during the pandemic were defective, but no party was able to take responsibility as there was a lack of a written agreement between the PLSB and the Health Ministry.