Romania: Bribery alleged in C19 mask contract?

Romania’s National Anti-corruption Directorate, DNA, has launched a criminal investigation into the director general of the state’s pharmaceutical distributor, Unifarm, suspecting that he demanded a bribe of 760,000 euros to facilitate a contract for the purchase of 3 million protection masks in March. According to the DNA, Ionel Eugen Adrian “demanded 760,000 euros from an intermediary who represented a company for CN Unifarm SA, a state company, to award it a contract to supply protective equipment against infections with the Covid-19 virus”.

Adrian has been placed under judicial monitoring for 60 days while being investigated for bribery, abuse of his position, being an accomplice to influence peddling, instigation to commit intellectual fraud and inappropriate use of his position to favour others. The contract in question was awarded following legal procedures last March. But the first shipment of a million masks received by Unifarm from the suppliers did not meet the standards agreed in the contract. Adrian cancelled the deal after the supplier failed to pay the intermediary the agreed 18-per-cent commission, from which he was supposed to get 760,000 euros. When the contract was terminated, Unifarm had only paid for the first instalment of a million deficient masks. 

“Through the described modality, it produced damages of 2,380,000 lei to CN Unifarm SA’s patrimony, an amount that represented the value of those one million substandard masks,” the DNA said.

President Klaus Iohannis declared a state of emergency on 16 March. One of the provisions allowed the state to speed up the acquisition of material needed to fight the pandemic under simplified procedures. Several NGOs in Romania, and globally, warned of the perils of weakening oversight mechanisms for awarding public contracts, and the Romanian media have already revealed several irregularities in the process of buying masks and other equipment.