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Pandemic. Results of the Supreme Audit Office's audit of the purchase of security measures by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and State Treasury companies

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Some of the personal protective equipment purchased by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister during the COVID-19 pandemic did not meet the requirements. Their use by medical staff could pose a threat, said NIK inspector Wojciech Zambrzycki on Tuesday during a meeting of the PiS settlement team. According to the inspector, NIK submitted a notification to the prosecutor's office, among others: in connection with bringing danger to the life or health of many people.

At Tuesday's meeting, the PiS settlement team led by MP Roman Giertych (KO) dealt with – as Giertych said – “issues related to the work of the Supreme Audit Office in relation to tenders during the COVID-19 epidemic.” – In this case, we have a number of irregularities found by the Supreme Audit Office. Both in the inspections that took place 2 years ago and in the inspection that has now ended – said the MP.

State Treasury companies with an order from the Prime Minister

NIK Inspector Paweł Tołwiński informed that the NIK audit was aimed at checking the correctness of issuing and implementing the Prime Minister's orders regarding the purchase of personal protective equipment.

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Presenting the results of the inspection, he said that in April 2020, the Prime Minister, in connection with counteracting the COVID-19 pandemic, issued orders to purchase personal protective equipment to State Treasury companies: KGHM Polska Miedź, Grupa Lotos and the Industrial Development Agency.

The audit shows that, in implementing the issued instructions, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister concluded agreements with State Treasury companies, as a result of which it made purchases for a total amount of over half a billion PLN.

– The Supreme Audit Office found the activities of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister related to the implementation and financing of the orders issued and contracts concluded with KGHM and the Lotos group for an amount of nearly PLN 190 million to be unreliable, uneconomical and pointless – emphasized the Supreme Audit Office inspector.

The Ministry of State Assets indicated the names of the contractors

– Even before the Prime Minister issued the instructions and concluded the executive agreements, the Ministry of State Assets (MAP) directly indicated to the State Treasury companies, i.e. KGHM and Grupa Lotos, what and from whom they should buy, at the same time ensuring the certified quality of the purchased products – Tołwiński pointed out. He added that it was MAP that determined which entities were able to deliver personal protective equipment, indicated prices and quantities, and developed contract templates.

According to Tołwiński, the audit showed that the international commercial experience of KGHM and Lotos was irrelevant in the entire process, as they only acted as a figurehead who was to take over the risk and responsibility for purchases made on predetermined terms.

The Supreme Audit Office inspector noted that the purchase of personal protective equipment was entrusted to KGHM and the Lotos group, and they had never traded medical products before.

Unlucky purchases of State Treasury companies

Tołwiński pointed out that the Ministry of Health was not involved in the purchasing process in any way, even though it had the best information about what protective materials were most needed at that time. – The supply of these funds by State Treasury companies was to be based on the list of needs prepared by the Minister of Health – he said.

Tołwiński presented the purchasing process chronologically.

First, MAP prepared a list of intermediaries and the demand: quantity and value of individual types of protective materials. Then, the ministry sent the collected materials to the companies KGHM and Lotos. On April 2, 2020, the Prime Minister issued an order to companies to purchase personal protective equipment. The first delivery of materials to KGHM took place on April 14, 2020, i.e. two days before the conclusion of the contracts between the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and KGHM and Lotos. Subsequent deliveries were made successively until January 2021.

NIK Inspector, Wojciech Zambrzycki, emphasized that the suppliers of personal protective equipment to the companies KGHM and Lotos were two business entities that had not previously been involved in the trade in medical products. Due to the confidentiality of the business and the notification of a possible crime, he named the companies with the first letters of their names: Q and K. He explained that the Q company had so far specialized in the supply of various defense-related solutions, and the K company mainly imported cosmetic gadgets from China.

– Lotos concluded an agreement with company K worth nearly USD 2 million for the supply of protective suits and, as it later turned out, 21 percent. of them did not meet the quality requirements, Zambrzycki said.

He noted that the protective masks purchased by KGHM were many times more expensive than those supplied by the Industrial Development Agency. – The costs of purchasing appropriate quality masks provided by the agency ranged from just over PLN 1 to nearly PLN 2.40 per piece. However, the cost of masks purchased by KGHM ranged from nearly PLN 8 to over PLN 10 per piece, even though, according to the Polish certifying institution, some of these masks did not provide the required protection to medical staff, explained the Supreme Audit Office inspector.

Threat to the health and life of medical staff

As revealed, the Polish certifying institution, the Central Institute for Labor Protection – National Research Institute, questioned the quality of masks worth nearly PLN 109 million delivered by KGHM. Zambrzycki drew attention to the fact that some of the products purchased by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, transferred to the Material Reserves Agency and further to users, came from batches of deliveries whose samples did not meet the requirements for personal protective equipment.

– As a result, their use by medical staff may not have provided adequate protection against virus infection, posing an additional threat – he noted.

The Supreme Audit Office inspector said that the safety of medical staff using products also supplied by Lotos was also at risk.

– 410 protective suits and nearly 133,000 were issued from warehouses to end users. face shields from a batch of deliveries made by this company, before the negative test results of the certifying institution became known – he informed.

Users themselves also raised concerns about the quality of the protective suits. – The quality of more than half of the products supplied by the Lotos group, worth approximately PLN 28 million, was questioned – added Zambrzycki.

Lotos purchases at a loss

As a result – as he emphasized – the Chancellery of the Prime Minister unilaterally calculated the value of the products delivered in accordance with the contract, paying Lotos only about PLN 30 million, out of the amount of almost PLN 58 million specified in the invoice. Moreover, he added, the loss of almost PLN 28 million was covered from own funds by Lotos, which did not pursue any claims against its suppliers.

– The information obtained by the Supreme Audit Office shows that the Material Reserves Agency did not have information enabling it to determine which of the personal protective equipment provided had been put into use or were in storage – said the Supreme Audit Office inspector.

In connection with the findings, the Supreme Audit Office sent notifications of suspicion of committing a crime to the District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw. They concern failure to fulfill obligations, exceeding powers, actions to the detriment of the public interest by public officials, causing property damage to a state-owned company and causing danger to the life or health of many people.

According to the director of the Supreme Audit Office's Branch in Białystok, Janusz Pawelczyk, “we are dealing with a bizarre situation.” – About PLN 200 million was spent uneconomically – he said.

He informed that during the inspection many difficulties were encountered, both on the part of the then prosecutor's office and the secret services, because these institutions were asked questions about their participation in this project. – Unfortunately, we encountered very significant difficulties, or even refusal and ignorance of inquiries – said Pawelczyk.

– This entire chain of funds flow involved commissions. These commissions were attributed to KGHM, Lotos and individual companies Q and K and one other company. All these entities, of course, earned from these commissions – added the director.

Giertych: we are dealing with a corruption mechanism

In the face of the new findings of the Supreme Audit Office, Giertych announced that the team would also talk to the Prosecutor General on this matter, due to the failure to fulfill the obligations on the part of the prosecutor's office, which is obliged to act in cases where the economic interests of the state are at risk.

– This case will be continued by our team and I think that we will be actively involved in investigating why the prosecutor's office did not forward the Supreme Audit Office's complaint to the court for months and refused to investigate for many months – emphasized Giertych. He assessed that we were dealing with a corruption mechanism that was clearly presented, planned, organized under the auspices of the Prime Minister and protected by state authorities that are obliged to protect financial resources and citizens' rights.

– We are also dealing with a situation where an unknown number of people could have suffered damage to their health or life because the equipment did not meet quality standards. It is a crime of endangering health or life,” added the chairman. “Someone made money by making someone else take the risk by wearing faulty protective clothing or masks,” the MP concluded.

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