MOH Forms Task Force For Covid-19 Vaccine Procurement White Paper

Dr Zaliha Mustafa says MOH has set up a task force to draft a White Paper on Covid-19 vaccine procurement, adding that MOH will ensure that its procurement in future, including of Covid vaccines, will be undertaken with greater care and integrity.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has formed a task force to draft a White Paper on the government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement, following instructions from the Cabinet.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said the White Paper would examine if the previous administrations’ procurement of Covid-19 vaccines was transparent. 

“This follows initial findings from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Legal Affairs Division (BHEUU) under the Prime Minister’s Department after due diligence was undertaken, particularly on the terms of agreements on the supply of Covid-19 vaccines that were signed and drafted during the Emergency period,” Dr Zaliha said in a statement today, without elaborating further.

“In line with that, following the Cabinet’s decision, MOH will ensure that all procurement, including procurement of Covid-19 vaccines by the ministry, will be undertaken with greater care and integrity, besides ensuring benefits for the government.”

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said last Wednesday that the government found that the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines did not follow procedure and had been signed off by the minister without the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ agreement.

Anwar did not specify which minister he was referring to. The pandemic saw Covid-19 vaccine procurement managed by Health Minister Dr Adham Baba and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. 

Khairy was put in charge of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme when he took office in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti), before he was appointed health minister in August 2021.

Anwar also claimed that there were issues related to compliance, management, and approval that did not follow protocol, besides matters involving the cost and amount of vaccines.

The prime minister instructed Dr Zaliha to table a White Paper in the upcoming Parliament meeting on Covid-19 vaccine procurement, even though an investigation by the bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by then-Ipoh Timor MP Wong Kah Woh from the DAP, from the 14th Parliament had found no improprieties in the procurement of the vaccines.

“The procurement of vaccines was in line with financial procedures as allowed by the MOF (Ministry of Finance),” Wong, who is now Taiping MP, said in a statement on December 1, 2021.

“The PAC is satisfied with the prices of vaccines procured by the government from multiple portfolios that are found to be reasonable.”

The only cost issue the PAC had with Covid-19 vaccine procurement was with the Sinovac vaccine, with the parliamentary committee noting that the government had to pay a premium of between 16.78 per cent and 18.12 per cent to procure some of the finished product.

This, said the PAC, was partly due to local pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Bhd’s delayed delivery of the vaccine in April, May, and June 2021 amid pressing needs at the time. 

“The PAC believes that the government should hold on to the same price as stated in earlier agreements.”

The PAC from the 14th Parliament tabled two reports related to Covid-19 vaccine procurement: a 521-page report on the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and its use among Malaysians under Mosti, MOH, and MOF, as well as a 61-page report detailing follow-up actions by Mosti, MOH, and MOF in response to the PAC’s initial report. 

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