PGO: Investigation into ventilator corruption case remains incomplete

Then-Health Minister Abdulla Ameen. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The Prosecutor General’s Office the investigation into the case submitted by Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) - seeking charges against 11 government officials in connection to the corruption in the award of a government contract to procure ventilators for COVID-19 patients – remained incomplete when the case was last submitted to the office.

ACC had submitted the case to the PGO three times – each time it was rejected due to insufficient investigation. The case was submitted to for duty prosecution for the fourth time last June.

PGO’s public prosecutor and spokesperson Ahmed Shafeeu told Sun the case was sent back to the ACC for reinvestigation in June. He said the ACC was completing the investigation.

ACC said it asked for an additional charge against the 11 officials implicated in the case when it resubmitted the case.

The commission said it found the officials acted in a manner which precluded advantages to the state in drawing up the contract and in the whole procurement process, and asked for an additional charge of using the influence of position to obtain or confer an undue advantage in a manner which precludes an advantage to state where a benefit exists under Article 13 of the Anti-Corruption Act.

ACC said that it also followed the money trail in the investigation, but found no evidence money went to any of the officials involved.

The case involves an MVR 34.50 million contract awarded by Health Ministry to Dubai-based Executors General Trading to procure 75 ventilators in 2020, which the Auditor General’s Office found to have been in breach of Public Finance Regulation.

ACC, which investigated the case, requested the Prosecutor General’s Office for criminal charges against 11 government officials in connection to the case, including then-Health Minister Abdulla Ameen on October 14, 2020. However, the Prosecutor General’s Office declined charges in the case, citing insufficient evidence. The Prosecutor General’s Office later reviewed the decision, but decided not to change its earlier decision not to pursue charges.

Following backlash over the decision, the Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement in March 2021 acknowledging concern from ACC and the general public over the decision to decline charges, and announcing the decision to review the decision and re-examine the case.

Executors General Trading only delivered 15 ventilators, and while Health Ministry paid MVR 30.91 million, which made for 90 percent of the total payment, to the company as an advance, without obtaining an advance guarantee or a performance guarantee.

Maldivian government served notice for termination of the contract for failure to deliver the ventilators in May 2021.