Three years ago, Malaysia was put on a metaphorical podium and received a congratulatory garland for our response to the Great Virus of 2019… that was until just recently, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which reviews government spending, rained on everyone’s parade.
If you guys remember, back then, this was the type of news to grace newspaper headlines:
Ugh, words spoken too soon :/
Turns out, Malaysia ekshually fakked up big time. Just last week, the PAC reported to Parliament that Malaysia’s management of the outbreak was… costly. And by costly, we mean a lot of money lesap-ed without any returns.
But the findings of PAC were just the tip of the iceberg, and more allegations have since emerged. So we hope you’re all tucked in because frankly speaking, there’s been a lot of hanky panky happening behind closed doors and we’re here to spill all the beans. To start…
According to PAC, MOH spent over RM 24 million on faulty ventilators
One of the first things that got Malaysia a thumbs-up from the rest of the world was our quick action in getting resources, and that included ventilators. Well, it turns out that out of the 136 we ordered, a whopping 104 were completely useless. Why? Because the ventilators couldn’t plug into our sockets.
Yep, over RM24 million spent and no one bothered to double check if the plugs were right. And even after the plugs were fixed, more problems cropped up. Whether it was the hardware, accessories, or software, there was just no saving those ventilators. But rather than the ‘what’ that was purchased, it’s the ‘who’ involved that’s truly mind boggling here.
Get this– Pharmaniaga, yes the same Pharmaniaga that makes your medicine, was the one in charge of buying the ventilators. Not the Ministry of Health (MOH), not any other government rep, but a pharmaceutical company. Does Pharmaniaga even have the qualifications to buy these ventilators? We have no idea but they went straight to China instead of our usual European suppliers to get them anyway. And if you’re wondering why China, well, that recommendation came from Wee Ka Siong, who was at the time, our Transport Minister.
If you’re confused, don’t worry, we are too– it just doesn’t make sense for a Transport Minister to call the shots in the purchasing of medical equipment. But that’s not even the most confusing part since the order, confirmation and receipt forwarding for these ventilators were made through Whatsapp.
Need we say this was totally against protocol?
To wrap it up, PAC concluded that no one can be held responsible for the busted ventilators, since neither Pharmaniaga nor MOH signed a contract, and without documentation, it’s hard to pin point who’s at fault. So basically, the money that hilang is hilang forever.
“The absence of a written agreement between the Health Ministry and PLSB meant that none of the parties can be held accountable for legal action taken with regards to the 104 ventilator units that failed to function”– PAC via Malay Mail
And that wasn’t the only resource that was wasted without being used…
PAC said MOH had to dump RM505 million vaccines into the bin
Guess who’s back in the spotlight 😀
But instead of ventilators, the problem this time was vaccines– vaccines that Pharmaniaga had a contract to deliver to MOH. A mix of reasons led to an oversupply of these vaccines, including:
- a drop in public interest in vaccination
- delays in vaccine shipments
- donated vaccines from other countries
Like all your other meds though, vaccines too have an expiry date. And once that date passes, the vaccine has to be thrown out.
In PAC’s report, around RM505 million worth of vaccines went straight to the bin. And former Health Minister, Daddy KJ, has admitted that this was his mistake.
“I take full responsibility for vaccine procurement because I was the minister in charge at that time, so I won’t throw anyone under the bus,” — Khairy Jamaluddin, via his Keluar Sekejap podcast
But the situation isn’t actually as cut and dry as it seems. Remember that vaccine delay we mentioned earlier? Well that was Pharmaniaga’s fault, and MOH had no choice but to look for an alternate supplier. They ended up buying the bulk of their vaccines directly from China, which, as you might imagine, came at a significantly higher cost, about 16-18% higher, in fact. And when you consider the scale of this purchase, i.e MOH bought over 2 million vaccines from China, those costs would definitely add up.
On that note, here’s something that doesn’t add up…
Gomen created a special contact tracing app that went bust
Let’s begin this with a question…. WHERE’S MYTRACE???
Most of you would probably remember the wonder app MySejahtera, but not so much MyTrace. Developed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (which funnily enough featured Daddy KJ as Minister… again), the concept of MyTrace was to use Bluetooth for contact tracing.
But privacy concerns and the government’s strong focus on MySejahtera meant that not many people even knew of MyTrace… well, most in the Cilisos office certainly don’t. There’s also the fact that MyTrace never actually made it to the Apple Store, reportedly because it couldn’t run in the background alongside other apps. Alas, with so few users, the app ended up being pretty useless and it was eventually discontinued.
Now, the big question is, how much money was invested in all of this? The exact figure isn’t crystal clear, and even when it comes to MySejahtera, there have been various estimates floating around. A quick Google search suggests MySejahtera could have cost around RM5 million, so you can only imagine the cost of MyTrace.
That being said, the app wasn’t a complete flop because the technology used for MyTrace was repurposed for MySejahtera as an in-built contact tracing feature. But it’s still a bit baffling why they didn’t just merge the two apps from the get-go, especially since Daddy KJ’s ministry was involved in the development of both. All in all, a merged app could have been more efficient AND cost-effective.
And in that same vein of non-efficient and non-cost effective decisions…
MOH spent RM300 million on ambulances we didn’t need
Look, this isn’t about MOH wanting to buy ambulances, nor even about MOH wanting 500 ambulances in one go. It’s that they specifically wanted negative pressure ambulances, which are so much more expensive than regular ones. Just to put it into perspective, your average ambulance costs about RM100,000, while a negative pressure one can go up to RM600,000.
Now, let’s peel back some layers. Considering that negative pressure ambulances come at a higher cost, you’d expect them to be simply better, right? Well, the idea is that they can restrict disease transmission due to their negative pressure filtration and disinfection system.
But here’s the kicker: Doctors and medical experts say it doesn’t even work! They actually voiced their disagreements, but the government still went ahead with the whole thing. And while those ambulances have certainly been put to good use, it doesn’t change the fact that an unnecessary purchase was made.
All in all, the total bill came up to RM300 million, which the opposition (PH) back then argued could be put to better use, like for testing and vaccines.
Speaking of total bills, here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for– it’s time for the final tally…
Gomen wasted about RM834 million during the p4nd3mic
Oof, that’s a lot of money, and that’s just based on the stuff we could find! But while we happily pointed out all the things the government did wrong, we do also wanna say that these were unprecedented times. Sure, questionable choices were made and there could’ve been possibilities of corruption here and there… 👀But all things considered, they did their best (like always keeping us updated) and compared to other countries, our government actually fared pretty decently.
Take the UK, for instance. They splurged £35 million on a tracing app that never saw the light of day. That’s over RM200 million! We might not know the exact cost of MyTrace, but it’s safe to say it was well below that figure. And then there’s Singapore, who lost S$140 million to expired vaccines. For those who don’t want to do the currency conversion, that’s about RM482 million. While it’s less than Malaysia’s RM505 million, it’s evident that we were all pretty much rowing the same boat. And that has to count for something… right?