On the morning of the day of Szumowski's resignation, MPs Michał Szczerba and Dariusz Joński (PO-KO) were once again conducting a parliamentary inspection at the Ministry of Health. In writing, they demanded full documentation regarding contracts for the purchasing of ventilators, visors and antigen tests.
The MPs also wanted to know what contractual penalties are paid by E&K company for failure to meet the contract according to which it was supposed to provide ventilators to the Ministry, as well as how much money it returned, where are the ventilators that were delivered and whether they correspond to the equipment that was ordered. - We were supposed to receive the answer at 4 p.m. Instead, after 3 p.m. the minister announced that he was resigning - Szczerba told "Wyborcza". - For me these two events are clearly connected. The minister was no longer able to hide the truth and decided to resign,' the MP surmised.
Earlier, during his press conference, Szczerba predicted Szumowski's resignation. He said that Szumowski's deputy in charge of public procurement, Janusz Cieszyński, "is running away from a sinking ship, which the Ministry of Health seems to have become at this moment, after buying medical equipment and personal protective equipment for almost a billion zlotys in the course of two months". And he called for the departure of the minister himself.
"The Unmasked" - how the controversy over Szumowski begun
In mid-May, after the publications of "Wyborcza", "Fakt", and then Onet and TVN 24, Szczerba and Joński began to investigate reports of huge irregularities in the purchase of equipment needed to fight the pandemic.
The effect of their actions and media publications is a prosecutorial investigation in which three issues are analysed: the purchasing of ventilators, masks and antigen tests. The Ministry spent 850 million PLN on purchases during the epidemic. Contracts which are currently under investigation amount to about 350 million PLN.
A day before Szumowski resigned, Janusz Cieszyński, the deputy minister directly responsible for procurement, resigned. In our article titled "The Unmasked" we described how Cieszyński ordered his subordinates to fast track the signing of a contract for faulty masks sold to the Ministry by an acquaintance of Minister Szumowski's family.
This was not the only questionable transaction authorized by Cieszyński. The most serious matter concerned ventilators. In April 2020, the Ministry paid an advance of 200 million PLN to a company called E&K for the future procurement of ventilators. Not only was the equipment three times more expensive than the market price, but only a small part of the order was ever delivered to Poland. Until today it is not known whether the equipment works at all. "Wyborcza" revealed that the owner of E&K had no prior experience in trading medical equipment. Instead, he was an arms dealer who had been cooperating with intelligence apparatus since the communist era. As recently as last week, Szumowski assured that the money was "successively being returned" to the Ministry. Now it turns out that about 70 million PLN is still missing.
Did someone start snitching?
Szumowski and Cieszyński testified as witnesses in the investigation. The proceedings themselves are still in the exploratory stage, and no allegations have been stated as of yet. The investigation is about the "mismanagement of grand scale".
According to one source, the situation around Szumowski and Cieszynski recently became more and more complicated due to the new testimonies obtained by the prosecution. One of the witnesses has testified to present both ministers as culpable. Based on our information, it was probably a person working at the ministry who was pressured into signing questionable procurement contracts and administering payments for them.
Łukasz Szumowski goes out with a smile on his face (for now)
In this context, the press conference during which Minister Szumowski announced his resignation with a smile on his face made quite an odd impression. Szumowski argued that he made his decision as early as the beginning of the year, but the pandemic interfered with his long term plans. He thanked the Prime Minister, the President, the Minister of the Interior and the chairman of Law and Justice for their cooperation.
He also talked about the "wave of hatred and aggression" to which he and his family were subjected. It was a reference to the articles published by "Wyborcza" and "Fakt" which investigated Szumowski's tax declarations, including the murky circumstances under which he transferred a large part of his wealth to his wife, as well as controversies surrounding the enormous profits of his brother's companies which operate in the medical sector.
When asked for reasons for his departure at the very moment when the second wave of the epidemic is approaching Poland, Szumowski replied that "the time for resignation is never good". He assured that "he stays in public service" (he remains a member of the parliament), but he also wants to return to medical practice.
- Perhaps for the media my departure is a surprise, but for the Prime Minister, the President, and the chairman of PiS it certainly is not. They have known about it for 2 weeks - he said. He also mocked the revelations published by media and members of the opposition, calling them speculations of 'home-grown Sherlocks'. And he repeated: - In the prosecutor's office we explained everything transparently. Linking the investigation to my resignation is an unreasonable interpretation.
As recently as August 7, however, Szumowski proclaimed during an interview: "I'm not going anywhere. In such a situation as we have, one cannot talk about leaving the ship at all. I am a sailor and helmsman, I know that this is not how things are done".
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