Ameen steps aside from duties as Health Minister pending outcome of probe

Health Minister Abdulla Ameen. (Photo/Health Ministry)

Abdulla Ameen has stepped aside from his duties as Health Minister pending the outcome of an investigation into the findings on a compliance audit on Health Ministry’s COVID-19 related spending.

The Auditor General’s Office released its compliance audit report on Health Ministry’s COVID-19 related spending on Sunday.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has ordered for Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and Maldives Police Service to conduct a joint investigation into the corruption uncovered in the report.

In a letter to the President on Monday, Ameen said that he is stepping aside from the Health Ministry until the investigation is complete, or until the President informs him otherwise.

The compliance audit report states there is reason to believe the procurement of ventilators from overseas involves fraud.

Health Ministry contracted the import of ventilators – part of efforts to improve the capacity of Maldives’ health system to treat coronavirus patients who require intensive care - to three private companies; Medtech Maldives, Naadu Private Limited, and Dubai-based Executors General Trading LLC.

While Health Minister Abdulla Ameen and officials from National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) previously stated that the Executors General Trading was contracted to supply 75 ventilators at the recommendation of World Health Organization (WHO), the Auditor General’s Office found the company had not been recommended by the organization.

The audit uncovered that 11 ventilators which were supplied by Executors General Trading were not the brand of ventilators they had been contracted to procure, and do not meet the requirements. Executors General Trading was also contracted to procure the ventilators at a higher price than other suppliers.

Health Ministry also did not obtain a performance guarantee, or an advance payment guarantee when it paid MVR 30 million (90 percent of the total payment) as an advance to the company.

The Auditor General instructed an investigation into the award of the contract to Executors General Trading.

The Parliament debated on an emergency motion over the audit findings earlier this Monday, during which parliamentarians called for Ameen to be dismissed.