Malaysia graftbusters probe contractors amid abuse allegation in buying of Covid-19 kits, PPE

The contracts involve the purchase of Covid-19 test kits, personal protective equipment and face masks. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Several companies directly appointed by Malaysia's Health Ministry to supply Covid-19-related equipment are being probed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Sources told The Straits Times on Tuesday (May 5) that at least five contractors have been summoned by the graftbusters this week to have their statements recorded in order to facilitate the investigation involving contracts believed to be worth at least RM30 million (S$10 million).

"The MACC will be scrutinising the appointment process of the contractors which was done under the emergency procurement procedures," a source told the Straits Times.

"But the main focus of the investigation is also to determine whether there is abuse of power when awarding these contracts, so the case is likely to be probed under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009," the source added.

It was learnt that the contracts involve the purchase of Covid-19 test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks.

The allegation of a possible shady deal came after former member of Parliament Wee Choo Kiong claimed last week on Twitter that a company which received the contract had been paid "lots of money upfront" and was not qualified.

The probe by Malaysia's graftbusters is one of the first publicly known involving the two-month old Perikatan Nasional government.

The emergency procurement procedures allow government ministries and agencies to directly appoint contractors to carry out works or make purchases without having to bid in an open tender process.

Citing its own source, Malaysia's news site Malaysiakini said one of the companies that was summoned by the MACC includes a construction company which had allegedly acquired a laboratory construction project for the ministry.

"Emergency procurement is not a licence to appoint just any contractor. Contractors chosen must come from those that have the proper licence, credentials and expertise to carry out the works needed," the source was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

"(Ministries) cannot simply appoint anyone to be a supplier. Most hospital equipment such as ventilators, laboratories and such require expertise to install, commission and carry out maintenance," the source added.

Amid the probe, the Ministry of Health director general Noor Hisham Abdullah said his ministry is ready to cooperate with the MACC, though he refused to confirm whether the contracts were awarded via direct negotiation.

"The matter should be referred to the MACC, but the ministry will always cooperate (with them) if needed," he briefly told reporters during a press briefing on Covid-19 on Tuesday.

Without providing context, Health Minister Adham Baba had issued a press statement on Monday (May 4), saying the ministry is constantly monitoring and ensuring its personnel practised a high level of integrity.

"The ministry will also support the MACC's efforts to curb corruption and embezzlement. We will continue to work with MACC," he said.

The Ministry of Health on Tuesday lodged a police report against several social media users for sharing allegations that five officers linked to the ministry and a top official were arrested by the MACC, Malay Mail online news reported.

The ministry said in a statement that it regretted the "slander", and hoped the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commssion (MCMC) will investigate the users.

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