The Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI) appealed a court’s decision that the body has to disclose data on ventilator sales, following anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International’s (TI) lawsuit. The case is connected to the government’s controversial ventilator procurement amid the coronavirus outbreak.
During the coronavirus outbreak, the Orbán government spent some 300 billion forints (EUR 803 million today) to buy more than 16,000 ventilators. The government pointed to the Wild West-like conditions in the ventilator market at the time, however, their prices and some dubious middle-companies raised suspicion, which led to controversy in some instances.
- First of all, even the United Kingdom, with five times more residents, bought fewer machines.
- The price was very high compared to other countries’ purchases, according to experts.
- In another comparison, the Foreign Ministry paid twice the price that the state hospital provider did for one unit.
- The storage fees of the unused machines also drew controversy.
- Moreover, while the hospital provider bought most of them from professional companies, there were several untraceable Chinese, Hong-Kong, or Malaysian companies among the Foreign Ministry’s partners.
- The example of Fourcardinal (with a Hungarian background) is a particularly salient one. You can read more about it here:
Anyhow, the government said they would like to sell those above the strategic stock (while a large number were also donated to other countries).
Several NGOs and media outlets were seeking to find answers to the above-mentioned questions. Among them, Transparency International (TI) wished to find out how many were eventually sold later on and for what price. Back in February of last year, the Foreign Ministry reported that they had yet to sell any.
On Monday, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court ruled in favor of the corruption watchdog, establishing that the government decision explicitly calls on the Minister of Human Resources (namely Miklós Kásler) to determine the exact quantity, type, and serial number of the ventilators to be sold, in consultation with the Minister of the Interior (Sándor Pintér), and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Péter Szijjártó).
EMMI appealed the first-instance ruling, however, arguing that since they didn’t sell any ventilators, they don’t have any data on the sales. EMMI says that they do not have data on ventilators in the form and breakdown requested by TI, and are not obliged to produce a new database because of the data request. As a result, the litigation goes on.
Transparency International additionally sued the Foreign Ministry for a similar reason, which lawsuit is still underway.
featured image illustration via Attila Balázs/MTI