Dump 'tender agents', Klang MP tells Putrajaya after medicine procurement scandal

Klang MP Charles Santiago speaks to reporters outside the Selangor MACC office in Shah Alam June 22, 2018. — Pictures by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
Klang MP Charles Santiago speaks to reporters outside the Selangor MACC office in Shah Alam June 22, 2018. — Pictures by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

SHAH ALAM, June 22 — Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to cut out the procurement middlemen acting for the Health Ministry, saying these pharmaceutical tender agents have cost the nation between RM3.7 billion and RM4.8 billion.

Speaking to the press after lodging a report at the Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office today, Charles said the government should purchase medicine for public hospitals directly from suppliers.

“Now you have these tendering agents raking in anywhere between RM3.7 to RM4.8 billion in terms of contract. Why (are these) tendering agents necessary? My view is it is corporate capture, where former senior civil servants use their power and influence to get government contracts.

“I think my suggestion to the new government is to completely take away these tendering agents. Why give it to them? This is clear it is crony capitalism as there are a lot of Umno (-affiliated) names here and political appointees who are also political appointees in 1MDB.

“After looking into the documents given to me, I can see there were elements of corruption. When I looked deeper, there elements of corruption between international pharmaceutical companies who were working with tendering agents in Malaysia,” Charles said.

(From left) Tan Kok Leong, Nalan M. Muniandy, Charles Santiago and Berry Ng with their reports outside the Selangor MACC office in Shah Alam June 22, 2018.
(From left) Tan Kok Leong, Nalan M. Muniandy, Charles Santiago and Berry Ng with their reports outside the Selangor MACC office in Shah Alam June 22, 2018.

Together with three other complainants, M Nalan, Berry Ng and Tan Kok Leong, Charles had submitted an electronic document report containing 150 pages detailing 427 contracts worth between RM3.7 billion to RM4.8 billion from 2013 to 2016.

He added that compared to Australia, Malaysians had to pay between 30 per cent to 148 per cent more for the costs of medicine in public hospitals.

Furthermore, Charles said out of the 20 companies, there are three companies which have raked in the lion’s share of the money at RM2.8 billion. Charles added that one agent with close ties to Umno took 50 per cent of the total contract value over a four-year period.

He alleged that one of these companies has strong links with a former Umno minister, another has ties with a retired “number two” in the Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Division while a third company is connected to a “1MDB political appointee”.

However, due to investigations by the MACC, Charles could not divulge the names of those implicated in the scandal.

The DAP lawmaker also accused the previous Barisan Nasional administration of covering up this issue when he had previously raised it in Parliament, saying that they give other excuses and reasons on why the price of medicine had been increasing.

He also believed that the Health Ministry under the PH government has a responsibility to inform the public who these tender agents are.

When asked whether or not this scandal was one of the reasons behind the reported medicine shortage faced by public hospitals under the previous administration, Charles said there is a “strong possibility”.

He said the Health Ministry should answer if the inflated price was the reason for the low supply of medicine in public health facilities.

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