Brazil suspends Covid-19 vaccine deal with Indian Bharat Biotech amid allegations of contract irregularities

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The ministry said the decision was taken on the recommendation of the Comptroller General of Brazil (CGU).

“According to the UGT’s preliminary analysis, there are no irregularities in the contract, but, due to compliance, the Ministry of Health chose to suspend the contract for further analysis. It should be noted that the federal government did not pay a dime for the Covaxin vaccine, ”the ministry said in a press release.

The unfulfilled contract, worth more than $ 300 million, had created problems for President Jair Bolsonaro after a parliamentary commission of inquiry (ICC) opened an investigation into the deal with the Indian company Bharat Biotech, who developed the vaccine.

CPI members say the price agreed in the contract was much higher than initially offered – a difference of 1000% according to the agency, citing documents provided to CPI.

Emails between Bharat Biotech and the ministry submitted to CPI indicated an initial price of $ 1.34 per dose, which was then increased to $ 15 per dose in the negotiated contract, according to a statement from CPI.

In testimony to the CPI last week, Congressman Luis Miranda, a former ally of Bolsonaro, and his brother Luis Ricardo Miranda, an employee of the Ministry of Health, said they warned the president of irregularities in the contract, but he did nothing to resolve the problem.

The deputy chairman of the inquiry, Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, told media last week that he believed there was evidence of a “very serious crime” on the part of the Bolsonaro government during the negotiations of the purchase.

On Monday, Rodrigues, along with Senators Fabiano Contarato and Jorge Kajuru, asked the Supreme Court to open a criminal investigation into Bolsonaro, based on the Miranda brothers’ accusations.

The Brazilian federal government did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment. However, Bolsonaro told supporters on Monday in a public statement that “we had done nothing wrong” and that there was “no way” for him to know what had happened at the ministry level. There is trust between him and the ministers, he added.

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At Monday’s rally, the president also accused political opponents of inventing “virtual corruption”, saying the contract was never fulfilled and no money changed hands.

In a statement, Bharat Biotech said it has followed procedures established by the industry in its dealings with Brazil.

“Bharat Biotech has not received any advance payments or provided vaccines to the Brazilian Ministry of Health,” the statement said. He added that the price of Covaxin “has been clearly set at $ 15 to $ 20 per dose for supplies to governments outside of India. The price for Brazil has also been listed at $ 15 per dose.”

Brazil has been among the countries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the second death toll after the United States. So far, only 12.1% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, while 21.5% of Brazilians have received at least one dose.

The health ministry said the contract suspension would not delay the pace of Brazil’s vaccination campaign, but the government has yet to announce a deal that would compensate for the expected 20 million doses of Bharat Biotech.

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