Ministry of Health dismisses director amid allegations of corruption in vaccine purchase

Ministry of Health dismisses director amid allegations of corruption in vaccine purchase Director of the Department of Logistics at the Ministry of Health, Roberto Ferreira Dias Photo: Marcello Casal Jr./Agência Brasil

BRASÍLIA – Accused of pressuring public servants to speed up the import of the Indian vaccine Covaxin, even with signs of irregularities in the contract, the director of the Ministry of Health's Logistics Department, Roberto Ferreira Dias, was dismissed from his post. The decision was taken on the morning of Tuesday, 29, according to a note released at night by the Ministry. The text also confirms that the director's resignation will be published in the Official Gazette edition of this Wednesday, 30th.

Ferreira's dismissal comes four days after the testimony to Covid's CPI by deputy Luis Miranda (DEM-DF) and his brother, Luis Ricardo Fernandes Miranda, head of import at the Ministry of Health's Logistics Department. a corruption scheme involving the purchase of Covaxin and cited Ferreira Dias.

The director was nominated for the position by the government leader in the Chamber, Ricardo Barros (Progressistas-PR), former Minister of Health, and by former deputy Abelardo Lupion (DEM-PR). Barros denies having sponsored the director, who assumed the role in the administration of then-minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta.

Last year, Ferreira almost occupied a board of directors at the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa). President Jair Bolsonaro himself withdrew from the nomination, however, after Estadão showed that the director had signed a R$ 133,2 million contract with the Ministry of Health, with evidence of irregularity, to purchase 10 million kits of materials used in covid-19 tests.

Another accusation against him, this time of charging bribes, came from Luiz Paulo Dominguetti Pereira, who introduces himself as a representative of Davatti Medical Supply. On Friday, Covid's CPI will hear the testimony of Dominguetti, who told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that he had received from Ferreira Dias a request for a US$ 1 bribe for each dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine purchased by the Bolsonaro government. AstraZeneca denies, however, that Davatti represents it – the American company has already been disallowed by AstraZeneca in Canada.

Senators Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), vice president of the CPI, and Alessandro Vieira (Cidadania-SE) prepared a request to summon Dominguetti. When they testified to Covid's CPI, deputy Luis Miranda and his brother said they met with Bolsonaro on March 20, at Palácio da Alvorada, and reported the corruption scheme in the Ministry of Health to purchase vaccines.

Reports published in the Minas Gerais press indicate that Davatti may be defrauding the process of purchasing vaccines in the state. The company would have negotiated with city halls, with the objective of obtaining a letter of intent showing interest in the acquisition of immunizers from AstraZeneca. After getting the letter, however, conversations got stuck.

In the case of Covaxin, the Bolsonaro government closed the purchase contract for a price 1.000% higher than that announced by the manufacturer itself, as revealed by Estadão. The Ministry of Health decided to suspend the contract temporarily, this Tuesday, 29, on the recommendation of the Federal Comptroller General (CGU). 

In August 2020, a confidential telegram from the Brazilian embassy in New Delhi informed the government that the Covaxin vaccine, produced by Bharat Biotech, had an estimated price of 100 rupees (US$1,34 a dose). Four months later, in December, another diplomatic communiqué said that the Indian-made product "would cost less than a bottle of water." In February this year, however, the Ministry of Health signed a contract with a price of US$ 15 per unit (R$ 80,70, at the price at the time), the most expensive of the six vaccines purchased so far.

Source: Jornal Estadão SP.

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