Procurement scandal: RM20 million masks failed tests, risked frontliners' lives



11 Feb 2023 05:14pm
Healthcare workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) who work with Covid-19 patients everyday seen physically exhausted. - Photo: BERNAMA
Healthcare workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) who work with Covid-19 patients everyday seen physically exhausted. - Photo: BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM - As the nation awaits the Health Ministry white paper on the Covid-19 procurement scandal, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been urged by one of its founders to also look seriously into cases that had allegedly put the lives of frontliners at severe risk due to breach of standards in the supply of critical equipment during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) deputy president Datuk Ezam Mohd Nor said one such case in which the MACC had launched an investigation in April 2020 involved an RM20 million procurement of facemasks which had been failed tests conducted by the Health Ministry's National Infection and Antibiotics Control Committee, which meant the shipment was not suitable for use by frontliners dealing with Covid-19 cases.

A circular sent out by the ministry on April 12, 2020, of which Sinar Daily has a copy of, informed its agencies that the masks had failed the tests and should only be used for regular medical services and not for staff dealing with Covid-19 cases as they did not pass tests as N95 facemasks which were required to protect frontliners working in close contact with Covid-19 patients, yet the shipment was alleged to have been disbursed for use by frontliners.

Ezam, who was part of the Parliamentary Committee which formed the MACC in 2009, urged the commission to provide answers to the public on investigations into these allegations as they had been launched in April 2020 but progress seemed to have halted after just one statement on the matter issued by the MACC.

"This is a very serious case, which is of public interest as such allegations meant that the lives of frontliners who were already giving their all for the nation in the battle against Covid-19 had been carelessly put at risk by such irregular procurements," said Ezam.

He added that the MACC had opened the case for investigation in April 2020, yet nobody was brought forward and investigations had gone silent.

“MACC must answer what happened to the case and why they left without further updates to the public?” he questioned.

Ezam said he believed there were "invisible hands" at play, covering up the case as it went quiet after just one statement issued by the MACC about it, but urged the MACC to act as they had no reason to protect any parties involved and should not bow to political interference.

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"This is questionable as the said procurement had to go through the Health Minister at the time and also top officials from the Health Department.

"This case not only involved millions of ringgit in public funds, but if allegations are true, then those involved had blatantly put the lives of frontliners at severe risk, blatantly.

“It is criminal of the highest order and we demand swift and stern action to be taken against the culprits,” he said.

“We also demand clarification from MACC urgently and thorough investigation must be carried out immediately," he said.

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