A serious case of corruption shatters Romania at a time when the health crisis is far from being over
When the pandemic started, Romania was not ready to deal with
such a major health crisis like the one triggered by the new coronavirus and
state authorities have all admitted that. It took a great deal of conceptual
and logistical effort to keep the situation under control. An important role
was to be played by Unifarm, the state-owned company that manages the purchase
of most medical supplies for hospitals in Romania.
People found out on Tuesday
that the company's director, Adrian Ionel, was placed under judicial control by
anti-corruption prosecutors, on charges of bribery to award a contract for the procurement of surgical masks and protective overalls during the pandemic. The
solicited amount allegedly stood at some 760,000 Euro. For this promised money,
Ionel allegedly signed a contract for the purchase of 250,000 overalls and 3
million surgical masks with a Turkish company. Prosecutors accuse him of
personally negotiating the terms of the contract with a person who was not the
official representative of the supplier company.
Moreover, the contract was allegedly awarded
in violation of all legal procedures in March, when the state of emergency had
not been declared yet. When the first tranche of one million masks arrived,
they were found to be non-compliant, and the Unifarm director unilaterally decided to terminate the contract. Anti-corruption prosecutors cannot say
whether he did so because the masks were non-compliant or because the Turkish
company did not pay a single euro of the promised bribe.
Adrian Ionel claims he has evidence to support his innocence.
As if that weren't enough, the investigation revealed that, for almost four
years, he had illegally held the position of General Manager of Unifarm, thus
collecting salaries totaling almost half a million lei (over 100,000 thousand
euros). The control body of the Health Minister has been carrying out checks at
Unifarm, including with regard to the acquisitions made to fight the new virus.
The still large number of daily cases is a serious test of
the resilience of the medical system. The number of patients in intensive care
has also increased slightly, and many hospitals are announcing that they no
longer have spare beds and can no longer cope with hospital admissions. In order
to reduce the pressure on hospitals, the discharge criteria for the Covid-19 patients
have been changed. Thus, the asymptomatic will be able to leave the hospital
after ten days, under certain conditions.
Against this background, talks about a new stage of easing
restrictions are increasingly anemic. Instead, there have been rumors of potentially
reinstating quarantine in the counties where the number of cases of infection
has increased significantly. The Government says it is not considering such a
measure at the moment, but does not rule it out if there is a strong community
spread in a certain locality or neighborhood, said the Minister of Health,
Nelu Tataru. (M.Ignatescu)