ACC says public disclosure of evidence in ventilator scandal by PG ‘unacceptable’

President of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Mariyam Shiuna during a meeting of the Independent Institutions Committee with Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on October 21, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)’s Vice President Fathimath Anoola criticized Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem on Wednesday, following his disclosure of evidence collected in the investigation into a contract to procure ventilators awarded to Dubai-based Executors General Trading during a press conference.

A compliance audit released by the Auditor General’s Office in August had uncovered irregularities in COVID-19 related spending by the Health Ministry - primarily with regard to a MVR 34.50 million contract to Dubai-based Executors General Trading to procure 75 ventilators – prompting a joint investigation by the ACC and Maldives Police Service.

The ACC completed the investigation and requested the Prosecutor General’s Office for corruption charges against 11 Health Ministry officials in connection to the ventilator contract, including Abdulla Ameen, who recently resigned as Health Minister in face of the allegations.

However, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced its decision to decline charges against the officials on Tuesday, citing lack of sufficient evidence.

In a meeting with the Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee on Wednesday afternoon, ACC’s Vice President Anoola said that detailing the evidence in a public forum, whether a case has been rejected or sent back for further investigation, is unacceptable.

“I don’t believe that’s the best forum. I don’t find it acceptable to publicly say that we have this or that evidence at this stage," she said.

Anoola also challenged PG Shameem’s statement that there isn’t sufficient evidence in the case, stating that ACC did not make allegations based on “just a phone call”.

“PG is repeatedly stating that we submitted the case for charges because the minister called us. We have not build up allegations in this manner. To prosecute because we received a phone call… This case isn’t based on a single act,” she said.

Anoola said the greatest suspicious act in the case is that the payment was issued before an agreement was made.

She said that the case involves multiple violations of the Public Finance Regulation.

“First of all, the decision of the Bid Committee to award the contract. The payment was issued without making an agreement. This case involves multiple such acts,” she said.

Shameem, meanwhile, repeated the statements he made during the press conference, stating that there simply isn’t sufficient evidence to prove criminal charges.