Bulgaria: ‘Corruption’ in contracting for antigen tests for pupils referred to prosecutors

Bulgaria’s anti-corruption body said on January 4 that it had referred to prosecutors the findings of its investigation into procedures for buying rapid antigen tests for school pupils, having found evidence of corruption.

In November 2021, Bulgaria began the resumption of in-person classes for schools pupils, on condition of regular testing. The move was accompanied by large orders for tests, running into several million leva.

On December 8, Bulgarian media reported former deputy health minister Dimitar Petrov as levelling allegations against then-caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov, in effect accusing Katsarov of manipulating the tender process.

The anti-corruption commission said that it had completed its investigation into the Health Ministry in connection with four procedures for purchasing rapid antigen tests for pupils to detect Covid-19.

It said that it had requested documents, and had interviewed Katsarov and Education Minister Nikolai Denkov, the former deputy health ministers, the Health Ministry’s chief of staff, the heads and members of public procurement commissions and representatives of the companies that took part in the procedures.

It had found that conditions in the procedures had been changed at the stage of signing a contract, after participants had been evaluated and ranked.

The commission found that certain companies had been “tolerated” and certain deliveries delayed, as a result of which some companies benefited, causing damage to the budget of the Ministry of Health.

At the time that the anti-corruption commission announced its investigation, the Ministry of Health responded in a statement that the procedures for acquiring the tests had been “flawless”.

(Archive photo: Education Ministry)

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