KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 15): The Ministry of Health is seeking advice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on the appropriate course of action as Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB) has refused to comply with a letter of demand issued by the ministry regarding shortcomings in the procurement of faulty ventilators.
Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni said that the ministry issued a letter of demand for the reimbursement of RM15.34 million on Sept 13, and provided PLSB a 14-day deadline for response.
However, Lukanisman said that PLSB responded by requesting the withdrawal of the letter and expressed readiness to negotiate the outstanding payment of RM1.07 million for the ventilation upgrade project.
"Thus, the Ministry of Health is now awaiting advice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on the appropriate further action to be taken following PLSB's response," Lukanisman said during the Special Chambers session at the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday.
He was responding to Lim Lip Eng (PH-Kepong), who urged the ministry not to accept the handoff and irresponsible attitude of PLSB and the supplier from China over the faulty ventilators.
Lim also recommended that the government take stern action by blacklisting Pharmaniaga, or the ventilator provider in China.
Lukanisman said the ministry will consider Lim’s proposed measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.
He also pointed out that the ministry is currently preparing its response to the recommendations by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and is committed to improving the procurement process even in emergencies, as well as ensuring communication through the gazetted medium.
The PAC’s report in October revealed that the Ministry of Health had approved an allocation of RM30 million as a down payment to be paid to PLSB for the procurement of 500 ventilators, out of which 136 units were provided from April 1 to May 19, 2020, at a cost of RM20.125 million.
However, the Ministry of Health informed the company that the ventilators were not compatible on June 4, 2020, as only 28 units were working. Further repairs and replacements resulted in just an additional four units being usable.
Added to the RM2.9 million for repairs, the government spent a total of RM23.03 million for the 136 ventilators, with only 32 working at the end.
On the health ministry’s instructions, the remaining RM6.97 million from the advance payment was returned on June 15.
Payment for the remaining balance of RM1.075 million for audits, commissioning, and maintenance of the ventilators is still under discussion between the Ministry of Health, PLSB, and IDS Medical Systems (M) Sdn Bhd — the company appointed by PLSB to repair and upgrade the ventilators.