I strongly believe that more should be done to demand accountability and even clearly establish the different parties who are responsible for the “clear negligence” in the ventilator scandal, as exposed by the Auditor-General’s Report and affirmed by the recently released report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The report basically revealed that Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd – a fully-owned subsidiary of pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Bhd, a government-linked company – had supplied the Ministry of Health (MOH) only 28 usable ventilators, just 6 per cent of the government’s order of 500 ventilators.
Another 108 ventilators, among the 136 that were delivered to MOH facilities between April and May 2020, were not safe for patient use.
Ninety-three of the 108 unusable ventilators received by the government were defective, costing the government about RM13 million in losses that could not be recovered because no agreement was signed between Pharmaniaga Logistics and MOH on the company’s appointment, as the procurement was done under emergency procurement protocols and it was based on the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR)
While we understand that it was a time of emergency, it does not give us an excuse to bypass basic fundamental procurement procedures and safeguards, especially when it involves millions of ringgit in public funds.
From there, we should identify the personalities who made decisions to forgo the need for the “most basic step” in any procurement process, which is a signed contract or agreement which will give better legal protection for the Ministry of Health and the different parties that are involved against liability or incidents such as this.
On top of that, was proper due diligence done towards the suppliers in China on their ability and competency to supply such important lifesaving equipment, even during an emergency? Was there any undue influence for such suppliers to be chosen?
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should also look into this matter thoroughly.
This is no simple procurement process that should be done through WhatsApp, as if it’s like shopping on TaoBao or Shopee, as it involves millions of ringgit in public funds.
From these elements of “negligence”, we should dig deeper to establish greater accountability, especially from those involved.
While the current leadership in the Ministry of Health is taking extra steps to ensure such incidents do not occur and ensure fundamental governmental procedures are adhered to in future dealings, even in emergencies and pandemics, this does not mean that no one should be held accountable.
That is why I believe the different parties that are involved have to answer and be accountable, and this matter must not be taken lightly or swept under the carpet.
Life-saving equipment like ventilators were so vital during the Covid-19 pandemic. Such negligence not only caused wastage of public funds, but more importantly, may have compromised the quality care of patients and even caused loss of precious lives.
We can never forget, especially during the peak wave of Covid-19, when many hospitals around the country struggled to keep Covid-19 patients alive amid shortages of staff, oxygen supply, and medication.
Wards were full, while equipment like ventilators and oxygen canisters were insufficient. Some medical professionals were put in the impossible position to prioritise certain medical equipment, including ventilators, for certain patients over others, which would definitely have affected the quality of care for other patients.
Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen is the Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching and Special Advisor to the Minister of Health.
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