Monday, June 23, 2008

Corruption scandal rocks Polish Health Ministry

A top Health Ministry official has resigned in the wake of bribery allegations

The Secretary of State in the Ministry of Health, Krzysztof Grzegorek, handed in his resignation last week and was suspended from the Civic Platform (PO) party following allegations of involvement in tender-fixing made by television station TVN last week.

According to TVN, Grzegorek took a zl.20,000 bribe for fixing a tender with medicine distributor Johnson & Johnson while working as head of an obstetrics and gynecology unit in a hospital in the town of Skarzysko-Kamienna in central Poland. The incident allegedly took place sometime between 2005 and the 2007 elections.

Grzegorek denounced TVN's accusations and has refused to give up his parliamentary immunity. "If the prosecutor comes up with concrete charges … he will give up his immunity," PO parliamentary club head Zbigniew Chlebowski told the press last week.

Grzegorek's case is a part of a much wider investigation involving 100 hospitals, which started in 2006 following the arrest of the head of a gynecology unit in a Radom hospital. The investigation is being conducted by the Central Anti-corruption Bureau, the Internal Security Agency and Central Bureau of Investigation, together with several prosecutors' offices in Poland.

Last week, not long after TVN made its accusations against Grzegorek, Rzeczpospolita reported that two Polish Peasants' Party (PSL) MPs were also under investigation. As many as 200 people may soon be accused of corruption, according to the daily.

Rzeczpospolita also reported that the state prosecutor, Marek Staszak, might have known about the evidence against Grzegorek long before the scandal broke.

Before Grzegorek's resignation, Minister of Health Ewa Kopacz declared that she "knew Grzegorek as a good doctor … a great manager and an honest man."

Grzegorek was expected to be replaced in the ministry by either Jacek Domejko, the head of a hospital in Swidnica, or PO MP Krystyna Skowronska.