Ventilator corruption case resubmitted to PG Office again

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem speaks at a press conference on August 3, 2021. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), has once again, resubmitted the case asking for charges against 11 government officials in connection to the corruption in the award of a government contract to procure ventilators for COVID-19 patients to Prosecutor General’s Office (PG Office).

This is the fourth time the case has been sent to PG Office.

PG Office’s spokesperson, public prosecutor Ahmed Shafeeu told Sun that the office’s advice is sought for cases with active investigations and in this regard, the ventilator corruption case has also been submitted to them.

Underscoring that PG Office have yet to finish review of the case – Shafeeu said that a decision on whether to accept or reject the case would be made within next week.

When the last time the case was submitted to PG Office – ACC said that they had asked for an additional charge against the 11 officials implicated in the case.

The commission said it found the officials acted in a manner which precluded advantages to the state in compiling 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 be 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. However, the Prosecutor General’s Office declined charges in the case, siting insufficient evidence. The Prosecutor General’s Office later reviewed the decision, but decided not to change its earlier decision not to pursue charges.

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.