Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit) defends official who allegedly ‘helped’ vaccine distributor with government contract

During a press briefing at his cabinet, Minister Vandenbroucke responded extensively for the first time to the accusations against an official of the FPS Public Health. This would have ‘helped’ the French company Movianto, one of the candidates to distribute Covid-19 vaccines in our country, to win the tender.

The Belgian company Medista, which until recently held the contract for distribution, has been saying for some time that the tender was not conducted correctly. In addition, the company believes that the government still owes them almost 5.5 million euros in outstanding invoices. The FPS Public Health denies this and claims that the amounts involved are that the company cannot justify.

At the beginning of this week, Medista nevertheless sent a letter to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, among others. The company is said to have new evidence of the fraud. Got it a little later The last news a video showing an official of the FPS Public Health. The official would admit to having helped Movianto during the tender procedure.

But according to Vandenbroucke, the images were made under false pretenses. After a meeting in early May this year, the civil servant in question was allegedly approached by an employee of Movianto – the company that did receive the tender – about an interesting career opportunity. The woman then contacted a certain Scott Baker, managing director of Edgewise Capital, which posed as a newly established company that wanted to introduce European tender procedures in Singapore. He claimed to be interested in the Belgian civil servant’s expertise and wanted to offer her a top job.

This was followed by a meeting between Baker, the civil servant and another so-called Edgewise employee in the Ambassade restaurant in Amsterdam. According to Vandenbroucke, the civil servant was asked about her role in tender procedures, under the guise of a job interview and using “coloured questions”. What the woman did not know is that the conversation was secretly filmed. Some time later, a similar conversation followed in London for the Belgian director of Movianto.

But according to Vandenbroucke, there is currently no trace of Edgewise Capital. According to the minister, both the company and the application procedure were invented on behalf of Medista. They in turn are said to have hired a company that calls itself a ‘creative intelligence agency’ and says on its website that it consists of former members of the Israeli intelligence service. We found no one available at Medista on Friday evening. Indeed, we also found no contact details for Edgewise Capital.

Vandenbroucke himself ordered a federal audit into the incident on Friday evening. He does this because he “always wants to have a new element investigated”, but not because he thinks that the official in question has made mistakes: “The fact that a civil servant considers competition important and looks out for companies that are doing better is actually very good” , says Vandenbroucke. The minister also refers to an earlier judgment of the Council of State. This would state that the tender procedure was carried out correctly across the board. Vandenbroucke: “To me, this is clearly a company that is trying to raise money and put pressure on civil servants. I find that very unethical.”

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