The Paraguayan Prosecutor’s Office seized on Tuesday from the headquarters of the Ministry of Health documents related to the purchase of the largest batch of medical equipment against COVID-19, whose adjudication process was annulled on Monday for alleged corruption.
A group of four agents appeared in the offices of the Financial Administration Directorate, the Cabinet, the Strategic Inputs Directorate and the Contracting Operations Unit to inquire about the disputed tender, the Public Ministry said in a statement.
“We constituted ourselves for the continuation of the investigation within the framework of the complaint made by the Health Minister himself (Julio Mazzoleni) and also by a group of legislators,” said prosecutor Francisco Cabrera.
He explained that they proceeded to withdraw folders with data linked to the specifications and conditions and subsequent awarding of the items to the companies Imedic and Eurotec, to “demarcate responsibilities in the purchase process.”
Last Sunday, Mazzoleni filed a criminal complaint based on reports from two control agencies that concluded that the process was flawed, and on Monday he annulled the disputed agreement, carried out for the life of the exception in the face of the health emergency.
The termination of the contract, valued at $ 12 million, voided the delivery of 6 million surgical masks, 50 hospital beds, 80,000 protective suits, 40,000 face shields, 30,000 eye shields and 1.7 million N95 masks.
On the same Monday, the minister stated that seven officials from the offices visited today by the agents are affected by an internal investigation to clarify the irregularities denounced by the control agencies.
In this regard, Cabrera said that each of these people will be called to testify at the Prosecutor’s Office “to put together a tax file and learn about all the circumstances surrounding the events.”
Some of the officials affected by the summary reported alleged political pressure to the media to favor the companies investigated.
For this reason, until shortly before Monday’s conference, rumors of Mazzoleni’s resignation ran, something that he dismissed before journalists, assuring that he will continue in office “as long as the President so provides and has the support” of his family.
“No, I have not thought of resigning, I am with the same conviction as the first day and especially at this stage of what has to do with the pandemic, it seems to me that it would be a decision of extreme cowardice,” he stressed.
And today the country’s president, Mario Abdo Benítez, confirmed his support through a message on his Twitter account.
“Force dear minister. All my support. I am confident that you will carry out all the actions that are necessary to guarantee transparency and continue with the great work that they have been doing, ”said Abdo Benítez.
The minister is credited with the government’s success in keeping the expansion of COVID under control, which to date has registered 877 infections and a death toll that has remained unchanged at 11 for weeks.