Ex-health official tells inquiry his department was featherbedded with military personnel

health ministry Roberto Dias (second from the left) speaks before the Senate's Covid hearings committee. Photo: Waldemir Barreto/SF/CC-BY 4.0
Roberto Dias (second from the left) speaks before the Senate’s Covid hearings committee. Photo: Waldemir Barreto/SF/CC-BY 4.0

During his deposition to the Senate’s Covid hearings committee, former Health Ministry logistics director Roberto Dias claimed his subordinates were swapped for military personnel one month before Army General Eduardo Pazuello took over as Health Minister in 2020.

Senators are investigating Mr. Dias’ involvement in an alleged corruption scandal involving the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

According to the former logistics director, the changes to his team were requested by Mr. Pazuello’s right-hand man, fellow Army official Élcio Franco. Mr. Dias told senators that he saw no reason for his employees — which he appointed himself — to be dismissed.

The substitutes included lieutenant colonels Marcelo Batista Costa, who was brought in to lead the department’s finance area, and Alex Lial Marinho, appointed as logistics coordinator. Lt. Col. Marinho is mentioned in a Federal Prosecution Service investigation into irregularities involving a deal to purchase Covaxin vaccines.

“I never had much empathy with Lt. Col. Marcelo [Batista Costa],” Mr. Dias said. He added that Élcio Franco reported directly to his subordinates, affecting his autonomy in the department.

Another of Mr. Dias’ military employees was Lt. Col. Marcelo Blanco, whom the ex-logistics director claims introduced him to military policeman Luiz Paulo Dominguetti Pereira, the alleged representative of U.S. firm Davati Medical Supply in vaccine negotiations.