PAC report on ventilator deal raises more questions than answers

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There should be complete accountability over the lack of documentation in ventilator procurement revealed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), says the Malaysian Medical Association.

  • Pharmaniaga Logistics did not have experience in the procurement of medical equipment
  • Lack of documentation in ventilator procurement
  • 104 out of 136 ventilators delivered unusable
  • Expired Covid-19 vaccines went to waste, costing the government RM505 million

Its president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said the PAC report on the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, which included the ventilator issue, raised more questions than answers.

“If Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB) did not have experience in the procurement of medical equipment, proper documentation should have been insisted upon all the more, for transparency and accountability,” she said.

“How 104 out of 136 ventilators delivered turned out unusable without any party being held accountable demands a thorough explanation,” added Dr Azizan

She said in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 31) that this issue not only involves a substantial amount of public funds but may also have significantly impacted the management of severe Covid-19 cases in the country.

She said the public deserves a “thorough explanation” on the reason heads are not rolling over the procurement of unusable ventilators.

“It’s imperative that this issue is not brushed aside, and we must insist on complete accountability,” she added.

Furthermore, the lack of documentation on the procurement showed there is an urgent need for robust emergency procurement policies to prevent such matters from recurring, she added.

“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.

“Documents, including signed documents, could have still been shared via WhatsApp,” she added.

On Monday (Oct 30), the PAC report revealed that deals on the emergency procurement of ventilators during the pandemic had to be done through WhatsApp due to the sheer urgency of the situation and travelling constraints imposed by the movement control order (MCO).

In the report, it said PLSB was directed to make an advance payment for the ventilators owing to its existing relationship with the Health Ministry, despite the company having no experience and expertise in the procurement of such medical equipment.

Yesterday, the PAC revealed that the government had incurred a loss of RM505 million due to 8.5 million doses of Covid vaccines that had expired in June this year, as well as 104 defective ventilator machines that were procured by the government through Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB).

The PAC also stated that due to the absence of a contractual agreement, no one could be held responsible for the blunder.

Earlier, Malaysiakini reported the PAC as stating that the Health Ministry and Pharmaniaga Bhd traded blame over the faulty ventilators.

The committee said there was no contractual agreement signed between the two with regard to the procurement, where PLSB, which is a subsidiary of Pharmaniaga, acted as an intermediary between the Health Ministry and suppliers in China.

The absence of an agreement also prevented the government from initiating legal action to recover losses incurred.

Additionally, the PAC found that PLSB did not sign any contracts with the suppliers.