Related News: https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2023/02/21/emergency-procurement-flaws-at-root-of-defective-ventilators-supply-says-c4/
Coverage by: Free Malaysia Today (FMT)
PETALING JAYA: The previous government’s approval of a RM30 million advance payment for the procurement of ventilators, as revealed in the Auditor-General’s Report, shows what can result from a lack of parliamentary oversight, says an anti-graft group
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said the flaws of “emergency procurement” were the base of problems involving the supply of defective ventilators.
In a statement, it said the “emergency procurement” had concentrated power to control public funds exclusively in the hands of the executive branch of government.
“With the auditor general’s findings, it is clear that failure to practise good governance in the procurement process ultimately led to Malaysians losing out on more ventilators compared to if the procurement was done in a more transparent and accountable manner.”
The Auditor-General’s Report 2021 Series 2 revealed that only 28 of the 136 ventilators procured by Pharmaniaga Logistics for the health ministry from 2020 to 2022 could be used.
The government could not claim the RM13 million spent on the defective equipment as no agreement was signed with Pharmaniaga, because the procurement was done under “emergency procurement protocols”.
C4 said the lack of documents meant that auditors were unable to verify the exact roles and responsibilities of Pharmaniaga in their dealings with the ventilator manufacturers.
“The lack of transparency presents a high conflict of interest whereby politicians can offer tenders to companies that they have a financial stake in.
“Secondly, the lack of official documentation outlining the contractual mandates of a company undertaking public procurement using public funds is simply unacceptable and is extremely vulnerable to abuse,” it said.
The group also said the defective ventilators cast doubts on Pharmaniaga’s ability to acquire such equipment and its management of operations.
“Did the company not conduct proper quality assurance checks to ensure they were receiving functional goods? Why were they unable to even come close to acquiring the targeted number of units?” it asked.
C4 added that the methods by which the funds were handled hinted either at a gross underestimation of the actual costs needed to procure the ventilators or that money was spent frivolously and not in accordance with any prior budgeting.
To resolve the matter, the group urged for a Procurement Act to be tabled and enacted as soon as possible, pointing out that it would greatly limit direct negotiations and the scope of power granted to the government in order to carry out any emergency procurements.
“C4 also urges the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to continue with its investigation into this procurement and for investigations to be conducted transparently.
“The unity government should also suspend and review all existing procurements made on the grounds of emergency procurement, reevaluating each of these projects on their merits and procedural integrity,” it said.
C4 also said corporate social responsibility programmes in public procurement projects should be regulated to ensure that it was not abused or used to circumvent procurement rules and regulations.