FORMER transport minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong has denied that he was involved in the government procurement of 136 ventilators from China during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
According to news reports, 104 out of the 136 ventilators supplied by Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB) to Malaysia’s MOH during the pandemic had turned out to be defective, according to a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigation.
Instead, Wee, who is also the MCA president, reportedly told the Dewan Rakyat today (Nov 20) that he had merely assisted in transporting the COVID-19 equipment during the pandemic, including the said ventilators.
“First of all, the approval (for the Health Ministry) to purchase 800 units of ventilators came from the National Security Council and the cabinet, not Wee Ka Siong,” the Ayer Hitam MP said.
Wee said this during a supplementary question to Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa who was delivering her winding-up speech following the debate on the Supply Bill 2024 (Budget 2024) at the committee level for the Health Ministry.
“Secondly, I did not help to buy the ventilators. Please, it wasn’t (my role). I only helped to bring back four things – face masks, ventilators, 100 units of ICU beds, and PPE (personal protective equipment).”
Wee was responding to Kampar MP Chong Zhemin who had raised the issue in his debate speech earlier.
Chong, citing a PAC report, had asked why Wee – and not then health minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba – had negotiated the deal for ventilators in 2020.
Wee also stressed that it was unfair for Chong to accuse him of being involved in the deal, adding that former health ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min had admitted that he (Chen) was the one behind the decision to procure the ventilators in his capacity as the then secretary-general.
He further alleged that he only found out that the ventilators were defective after he was quizzed about the matter during PAC proceedings.
“You can read in the PAC report. This is unfair because Chen said that he made the decision in his capacity as the then secretary-general,” he stressed.
“When I was given three hours for PAC hearing, the session only took 30 minutes. I was asked why the ventilators were faulty. So, I said only today when I came here that you told me they were faulty. When I delivered them, you simply took (the machines) and left. My job was finished, mission accomplished.”
Wee’s statement, however, contradicted the testimony of Pharmaniaga chief operations officer Mohamed Iqbal Abdul Rahman who told the PAC that Wee was the one who had helped to connect them with suppliers in China.
On Sept 14, Mohamed Iqbal reportedly told a PAC proceeding that it was the company’s first time dealing with Chinese ventilator suppliers.
“Normally, as far as my previous life, I was working in a maintenance company, most of the ventilators purchased by the Malaysian government are from the West. This was the first time that the Malaysian government was buying ventilators from China. So, we didn’t have any experience and all that,” Mohamed Iqbal said.
He added that there were several WhatsApp groups created over the course of the procurement process, with the main group involving Chen, Pharmaniaga’s MD, and Wee’s senior private secretary Wong Lee Yen, representing the Transport Ministry.
“Our contacts were via the transport minister at that time, who had good contact with China, and would provide instructions to the Health secretary-general, and the latter would then order Pharmaniaga’s managing director to make the payment and receive the order,” he added. – Nov 20, 2023
Main pic credit: Malay Mail