Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi has said she wants to continue the construction of a bird flu vaccine plant despite the corruption allegations surrounding the project.
Nafsiah said her main mission was to protect the Indonesian people from bird flu and the plant offered the best chance for that. The plant has so far produced 5,000 dose of the bird flu vaccine.
“To protect the Indonesian people during a pandemic, we need at least 20 million units of the vaccine. That’s why we need to continue the project, a move also aimed at saving a state asset for the good of the people,” the minister said during a working meeting with House of Representatives Commission IX, which oversees health affairs, on Monday.
The project was halted after Commission IX postponed the disbursement of its budget last year in response to the corruption allegations. However, the minister has ordered the plant to continue producing the bird flu vaccine.
A company linked to former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin, who is serving a five-year jail sentence for corruption, won the tender for the construction of the plant. Nafsiah said she was unaware of the details of the tender.
She added that the ministry would cooperate with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and its investigation.
“We will follow up on the BPK’s findings,” she said referring to the Supreme Audit Agency. She added, however, that her main concern was ensuring a supply of vaccines in the event of a pandemic.
Nafsiah, who has only been health minister since this June, said the government had disbursed Rp 916 billion ($97 million) for the construction and operation of the bird flu vaccine plant since 2008.
The ministry had asked for Rp 191 billion in 2008 but only Rp 144 billion was approved by lawmakers. The next year it proposed a budget of Rp 488 billion and was given Rp 300 billion. In 2010, the ministry requested Rp 478 billion and received Rp 472 billion, bringing the total budget to Rp 916 billion. Last year, the ministry requested a budget of Rp 479 billion, but the House declined to release any money.
The ministry has requested a total of Rp 1.6 trillion for the project.