Audit: WHO did not recommend Dubai-based company for supply of ventilators

Health Minister Abdulla Ameen at a National Emergency Operations Center press briefing on April 6, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Auditor General’s Office has found that the Health Ministry did not contract Dubai-based Executors General Trading LLC to import 75 ventilators at the recommendation of World Health Organization (WHO), as was previously claimed by government officials.

The finding was included in a compliance audit report on coronavirus-related expenditure by Health Ministry released by the Auditor General’s Office on Sunday.

Executors General Trading was awarded a MVR 34 million contract to import ventilators as part of an initiative to strengthen the capacity of the Maldivian health system to treat coronavirus patients who require intensive care.

Health Ministry contracted the import of ventilators to three private companies; Medtech Maldives, Naadu Private Limited, and Executors General Trading LLC.

However, Executors General Trading delivered only 11 ventilators, which were rejected by Health Ministry as they did not meet standards.

Health Minister Abdulla Ameen and officials from National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) previously stated that the Executors General Trading was contracted at the recommendation of World Health Organization (WHO).

However, the compliance audit report shows WHO did engage in communications with Executors General Trading, and neither did it provide a list of companies which supply medical equipment.

The Health Ministry, in a letter to Finance Ministry and the Parliament, implied that Executors General Trading was on a list of recommended medical equipment suppliers provided by WHO. And the Auditor General’s Office found that the Health Ministry’s Finance Executive had also stated as such in a memo sent to the Health Ministry’s bid committee.

The Auditor General’s Office, following a review of the bid committee’s minutes, found that it was stated during a meeting that the committee’s chair had called WHO’s national professional officer , and that the officer too confirmed WHO had provided such a list and informed the committee chair that WHO procures ventilators and other medical equipment from Executors General Trading.

However, the officer, when questioned by the Auditor General’s Office, denied having stated that, and said that the officer told the committee he wasn’t the best person to provide the information in question, and that he was not privy to any information regarding the party [Executors General Trading] on the email forwarded by the Health Ministry’s finance executive, and that the contract wasn’t awarded at the recommendation of WHO.

Health Ministry, in a memo to the bid committee, said that Executors General Trading was recommended by WHO’s country representative to Maldives, Dr. Arvind Mathur, and that the ministry has received a list of the brands of ventilators supplied by the company.

The Auditor General’s Office found that Dr. Mathur never provided any official recommendation to Health Ministry, but provided the information he received when asked for assistance in an unofficial capacity.

However, the Auditor General’s Office found no evidence of a list of recommended suppliers as claimed by Minister Ameen, or any documents showing WHO had recommended Executors General Trading.

Health Ministry did not obtain a performance guarantee, or an advance payment guarantee when it paid MVR 30.9 million (90 percent of the total payment) as an advance.

 The Auditor General has ordered an investigation into the case.