Paraguay: Government terminates input contracts against Covid-19 for alleged irregularities, says controller

(Spanish CNN) – The Minister of Health of ParaguayJulio Mazzoleni announced on Friday the total termination of contracts with two state-owned supply companies, which have acquired medical supplies from China for this entity, worth approximately $ 14 million to combat the Covid-19. A report from the Office of the Comptroller revealed alleged contract irregularities on Thursday.

The Ministry of Health had already rejected in late April the first shipment from China, brought by the same two companies. According to the entity, the release occurred because the inputs did not meet the quality of biosecurity required for medical use. The new cargo from China, arriving in Asunción a few days ago, was to replace the previous one, so that the Ministry of Health was reviewing the goods, having announced this week the rejection of a significant percentage of new supplies. “for non-compliance with technical specifications”.

The opinion of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, which details the alleged irregularities in the direct allocation for the purchase of medical supplies in the midst of the “urgent emergency” due to the pandemic of coronavirus, was the key for the Ministry of Health to choose to cancel the disputed contracts. “I made the decision to proceed to a total termination of the contract; the policy will be implemented and summaries will be started to determine responsibilities, “said Minister Mazzoleni at a press conference.

After this Friday’s decision to terminate the contracts with the companies Eurotec and Imedic S.A., the legal representative of the two companies, Andrés Cassatti, maintained that their customers complied with the requirements of the specifications and basic conditions. Counsel said the two companies had, however, decided to “withdraw” and accept the termination of the contract, so that they would withdraw the goods and “make an immediate return of the money received as an advance so that the general interest prevails in this matter, to the effect that white staff (doctors and nurses) could have the supplies necessary to deal with this pandemic as soon as possible. “

Cassatti, in communication with Radio Monumental, did not rule out legal action later. “Later, we will analyze the actions to be taken because we are convinced that the products we have brought in are valid, they meet the conditions. We are convinced that we have had several disadvantages of force majeure not attributable to the company”.

According to the opinion of the Office of the Comptroller, the acquisition of supplies in the context of the fight against COVID-19 was “marred by irregularities” at all its stages. The multi-page document details all of these alleged irregularities.

One of the fourteen points at issue is that the directly allocated companies did not submit the product samples as required by the conditions precedent to the allocation, which, according to the office of the controller, was not taken into account.

Representatives of the companies selected for the purchase maintain that it was impossible to present samples of these goods because they were not physically in Paraguay but in China and because of the urgency of the pandemic, they had to go directly when ordering.

According to the official public procurement portal, the canceled contracts were to provide biosafety protection equipment to doctors and nurses, including 12,000 face screens, 9,000 eye screens, 1,800,000 surgical masks, 48,000 biological protection suits, 510,000 N95 masks. and 15 hospital beds.

Cassatti said that “there are orders from other countries for these supplies because they are in high demand for covid-19 and if Paraguay does not want them they will take them to another country, because it maintains that they meet the quality requirements. “
The Minister of Health clarified that, although the termination is unilateral, it is based on reports from regulatory agencies, and recalled that there is an insurance policy that supports the ministry.

Mazzoleni assured this Friday that the provisions of the law will be respected, and will seek to clarify through an investigation, if there were state officials responsible for any crime.

Asked about the safety of health workers, the country’s highest health authority said that protecting doctors was not limited to this purchase, as many donations and other tenders were underway. “There are other reservations,” he said.

So far, there has been no tax investigation into the alleged irregularities mentioned by the Office of the Comptroller in the official document on the purchase of inputs in China.

The President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, through a national emergency law, received authorization from Congress to access credits of 1.6 billion dollars to fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

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