In view of the extreme urgency to procure our needs, we had no alternative than to have recourse to emergency procurement as provided for under section 21 of the Public Procurement Act and further borne out by Directive 44 from the Procurement Policy Office (PPO). The objective of the Emergency Procurement Process, as pertinently stipulated by the PPO directive, was to safeguard life, quality of life or environment.
This statement was made today in the National Assembly by the Prime Minister, Minister of defence and Home Affairs, External Communications, Minister of Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, in a reply to a Private Notice Question pertaining to the emergency procurement of drugs and medical equipment during the lockdown period.
The Leader of the House highlighted that an assessment by the WHO of the risks for Mauritius was that for a population of 1.265 million inhabitants, the risk of exposure was 0.461 with mild infections of 87,424, slightly over 1000 with severe infection and over 22,000 hospital admissions and 837 deaths. In the face of such a projected, unprecedented and alarming situation, we could not remain inactive but, we had to be expediently proactive, he added.
Prime Minister Jugnauth recalled that a High Level Committee on COVID-19 was set up under his chair on 31 January 2020 to take stock of the projected situation and chalk out the way forward. As a responsible Government, it was our duty to ensure that measures were in place to face the unprecedented challenge of an invisible enemy that has turned the world topsy turvy and put a halt to our normal way of life, he underpinned.
He further underlined that in the light of the requirement worked out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that the Ministry, being already stretched to the maximum in terms of resources, would need assistance from other Ministries and Departments. There was a need to act promptly and effectively as the world demand was far greater than the supply of medicines and equipment, underscored Mr Jugnauth.
Prime Minister Jugnauth recalled that major manufacturers and suppliers from different countries were not able to satisfy the high demand and that small island states like Mauritius were particularly vulnerable in that situation of panic buying and tarmac buying.
In a reply to whether an inquiry in the Ministries and organisations involved therein would be initiated, the Prime Minister stated that no such inquiry in Ministries and organisations involved in the procurement exercise would be undertaken.
He reiterated that the emergency procurement of medical supplies has been done in accordance with section 21 of the Public Procurement Act and Directive 44 of the Policy Procurement Office.
The Prime Minister underpinned that it is now in the Public domain that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has initiated an inquiry into the issue of procurement of medicines and equipment during the COVID-19 period and given that ICAC is presently investigating into the matter and by virtue of Section 81 (3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, no further information can be disclosed on this matter.