Lithuanian president waits for health minister's explanation over procurement scandal

  • 2020-08-04
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda is waiting for Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga's explanation of his position on a coronavirus-related public procurement corruption scandal and suspicions against Deputy Health Minister Lina Jaruseviciene, a presidential advisor said on Tuesday.  

"In our opinion, Minister Veryga can't stay away. He has to give his explanation, his take of this situation," Darius Kuliesius told a news conference on Tuesday.

"The minister has the duty to manage the risks that arise in his sector," he added. 

Kuliesius spoke to reporters after Nauseda met with officials from the National Audit Office, the Special Investigation Service (STT) and the Public Procurement Office to discuss risks in pandemic-related public procurement procedures and state aid to businesses. 

The advisor did not comment on ongoing law-enforcement investigations into the procurement of reagents and rapid coronavirus test kits worth 11 million euros in total. 

"The president doesn't give assessments to specific investigations. This will be done by a court," he said. "Today we talked today about systemic risks and the necessary recommendations that all contracting entities should follow."  

The Finance Crime Investigation Service has said Jaruseviciene is suspected of abusing her office and exceeding her powers as part of its investigation into a 6-million-euro rapid coronavirus test procurement procedure. 

Veryga is expected to accept the health vice-minister’s resignation on Friday. 

In STT's investigation into a 5-million-euro procurement of reagents for coronavirus tests, Sarunas Narbutas, until recently the president of the Lithuanian Cancer Patient Coalition (POLA), is suspected of influence peddling. 

The anti-corruption agency has questioned Veryga, Deputy Health Minister Kristina Garuoliene, Government Chancellor Algirdas Stoncaitis and Government Chancellor Lukas Savickas as part of the probe. 

Both procurement processes were carried out by the National Public Health Surveillance Laboratory (NPHSL) whose director, Vytautas Zimnickas, died several weeks ago.