BRASILIA – The Ministry of Health has temporarily suspended the contract to buy 20 million doses of the Indian vaccine Covaxin. The decision was taken this Tuesday, 29, a day after President Jair Bolsonaro was the target of a criminal report sent by senators to the Supreme Court (STF), for malfeasance. The government acts to defuse suspicions that the purchase of the vaccine would involve a corruption scheme within the Ministry of Health, with the knowledge of the president, while preparing the counteroffensive in Covid's Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI).
The suspension of the business occurred on the recommendation of the Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) after deputy Luis Miranda (DEM-DF) and public servant Luis Ricardo Fernandes Miranda, brother of the congressman, told the CPI, last Friday, who warned Bolsonaro about irregularities in importing Covaxin, even charging bribes. The new crisis comes in the wake of Bolsonaro's falling popularity and street protests, with more calls for impeachment.
“Under the guidance of CGU, as a matter of convenience and opportunity, we decided to suspend the contract so that more in-depth analysis can be carried out. On the other hand, the Ministry of Health will carry out an administrative investigation to verify all aspects of the issue that have been raised”, said the Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, in an interview at the Palácio do Planalto. The information that the contract would be suspended was anticipated by CNN Brasil.
When forwarding a crime-report against Bolsonaro in the Supreme Court, senators Fabiano Contarato (Rede-ES), Jorge Kajuru (Podemos-GO) and Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), vice president of the CPI, stated that he ignored fraud alerts and collection of bribes in the process of contracting Covaxin, a vaccine produced by the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech and intermediated by Necessidade Medimentos.
In a statement sent to the office of the Supreme Minister Rosa Weber, rapporteur of the case, the Attorney General's Office asked the magistrate to await the conclusions of the CPI before deciding on the crime report (more information on this page).
The agreement between the Ministry of Health and Need was signed on February 25 and provides for payment of R$1,6 billion. The value per dose (US$ 15) is the most expensive of the six immunizations that the country has purchased so far.
Although the minister of the CGU, Wagner Rosário, says that the suspension of the contract will only last while technicians analyze whether there were irregularities - which he hopes to conclude in a maximum of ten days - in the auxiliary backstage at Bolsonaro, they already admit the possibility of canceling the deal . In the dispatch to the Ministry of Health, the CGU informed that it was "urgent" to suspend the contract to "ensure the protection of the public interest and coffers", since there was a risk of seeing the process "ridden with vices".
“We will do this analysis to make sure there is no blemish on this contract. From then on, the decision to hire or not is an act of management by the minister of Health, it is not up to the CGU”, said Rosário, alongside Queiroga. “The CGU is suspending the process solely and exclusively to verify a possible irregularity brought by a server that has not yet been able to specify what it is. We are reviewing the process to provide maximum security for the minister to take decisions within the law.”
Unlike what Rosário said, however, the server Luis Ricardo Fernandes Miranda – head of importation at the Ministry of Health's Logistics Department – appeared at the CPI with documents on what he was saying and claimed to have suffered pressure from superiors to speed up the purchase of Covaxin . The employee showed copies of invoices to prove that there was an attempt to advance the payment of US$ 45 million to a company that was not included in the contract – Madison Biotech – and, along with his brother, said he had taken all these complaints to Bolsonaro in meeting at the Alvorada Palace, on March 20th.
At the time, according to deputy Luis Miranda, the president attributed the suspicions to "another roll" of deputy Ricardo Barros (Progressistas-PR), former health minister and current government leader in the Chamber. In Miranda's version, Bolsonaro said he would call the Federal Police to investigate the case, but no investigation was opened at the time.
In addition to the higher price and pressure to accelerate the deal, the government contract to acquire Covaxin also raised suspicions from senators for having been the only one signed through an intermediary company. All others were negotiated with the laboratory manufacturers or who will produce the vaccines.
In conversation with supporters, Bolsonaro mocked the complaint, saying that his opponents had invented the modality of “virtual corruption” because nothing had been paid for. The money for the purchase of Covaxin, however, has already been committed (reserved) to the Budget.
The contract with Need Medicines foresaw that the first shipment, of 4 million doses, would be sent to Brazil in March. Without the approval of the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), however, the deadline was not respected.
Covid's CPI now wants the government to give details about the decision to suspend the contract for the purchase of the Indian vaccine. "I want to know when these opinions of the CGU were given," Senator Omar Aziz (PSD-AM), president of the CPI, told Estadão. "Why didn't you do this before?" For Senator Humberto Costa (PT-PE), the government admits that there are irregularities in suspending the contract. “This decision is an acknowledgment of guilt,” he said. “If there's nothing wrong, why will they suspend it? This only has one name: Confession!” said Randolfe, in a message posted on Twitter. /COLORED DANIEL WETERMAN.
Source: Jornal Estadão SP.
PGR asks the STF to await the end of Covid's CPI to decide whether to investigate Bolsonaro for malfeasance in the Covaxin case
The Attorney General's Office (PGR) asked the Supreme Court (STF) on Tuesday, 29, to hold back the progress of the crime news that calls for the investigation of President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) for possible crime of malfeasance in negotiations for the purchase of the Indian vaccine Covaxin, manufactured by the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech.
In a statement sent to the office of Minister Rosa Weber, rapporteur of the case, the Deputy Attorney General of the Republic Humberto Jacques de Medeiros defended that the Federal Public Ministry wait for the end of Covid's CPI before thinking about opening a concurrent investigation.
"In respect of the system of independence and harmony of the constituted Powers and aware of the impossibility of the direct leap from the news-crime to the criminal action, with the suppression of the tabulation phase, the Federal Public Ministry requires that the early petition not be given transit", he says an excerpt from the document.
The request to denounce Bolsonaro came from senators Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), Fabiano Contarato (Rede-ES) and Jorge Kajuru (Podemos-GO). The lawmakers took the case to the STF after federal deputy Luis Miranda (DEM-DF) and the lawmaker's brother, Luis Ricardo Miranda, who is head of import at the Ministry of Health's Logistics Department, said in testimony to the parliamentary committee that the president ignored warnings about suspected corruption in the process of acquiring the immunizing agent.
The deputy prosecutor considered that the senators had “broken” the CPI by calling the Supreme Court before the conclusion of the parliamentary investigation. Jacques de Medeiros said they acted outside the collegiate. “Putting the cohesion in the necessarily collective deliberations of the Legislative Power at risk”, he observed.
In the evaluation of the PGR, the analysis of the case must await the final report of the commission. He advocates 'prestige' legislative investigation, which is generally faster. Another argument is that the findings can reach divergent conclusions.
“If the Legislative Power is investigating with excellence apparently illegal behavior with all the necessary competences, what would be the reason for the Supreme Court to open a concurrent investigation, taken by institutional checks and balances and without equal agility? Going further, what is the gain for the interinstitutional machinery if, at the end of the parallel investigations, there is a divergence between the conclusions of the judicial police and the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission?”, he questioned in the statement sent to the STF.
The opinion was sent at the request of Minister Rosa Weber. It is up to her to decide, monocratically or with the collegiate, whether to authorize the opening of a formal investigation into the president's conduct.
Pressed, Bolsonaro said he did not know the details about the purchase of Covaxin and denied irregularities in the deal. After the suspicions, the Ministry of Health decided to temporarily suspend the contract to import 20 million doses of the Indian vaccine.
Source: Jornal Estadão SP.