For the first time since 2019, the Euskadi Ethics Commission has issued an opinion this Friday on some of the various issues it has in its queue. The agreement was adopted on March 1 and approved the leap of former Health Minister Jon Darpon -who had to resign due to the irregularities in the 2018 medical examinations-, from the former vice-counselor, Fátima Ansotegi, and the former assistant director of Healthcare Quality, Mayte Bacigalupe, to the private health insurer Keralty, the former Sanitas Internacional and which is led by a millionaire from the PNV orbit, Joseba Grajales. Although its main business is abroad, eThis Arkaute-based company received around 350,000 euros from the Basque Government between 2016 and 2019. Significantly, the resolution is not signed by the new president of that body, counselor Olatz Garamendi, but by another counselor, Arantxa Tapia, who acts as a substitute for her cabinet colleague.
The substance of the opinion, issued as a result of a query from Josu Estarrona (EH Bildu member of parliament), is based on the fact that the ethical code of high Basque officials applies to them from the moment they are appointed and until the moment of their dismissal, so it cannot be used to assess their subsequent leap to a private company, no matter how much it was almost immediate in the three cases and coincident. EH Bildu additionally stated that the former vice-counselor remained formally a few more weeks on the Osakidetza board of directors despite having left the Government, time that was simultaneous with her new professional career. The Ethics Commission admits that this case is more “borderline” but has analyzed that during that period Ansotegi did not participate in any meeting in Osakidetza. “In short, there is no record in any case that she carried out any act that implied considering her linked, in one way or another, to the governmental structure or that indicated that she continued to hold the rank of deputy councilor for any purpose,” the document reads. The Commission, in any case, considers it prudent to recommend that, in the future, the dismissals of senior officials be accompanied by an express reference to the automatic dismissal of the boards in which they may participate due to their position.
It so happens that this Friday the Minister Garamendi has been asked about the inactivity of the Ethics Commission throughout the pandemic in the control session of the Government that has been held in the Basque Parliament. Despite the fact that before March 1, no resolution had been published since 2019 and that the annual reports for 2018, 2019 and 2020 did not appear either, Garamendi has replied to the interpellation of Carmelo Barrio (PP + Cs) that “it is not true ”that there has been a stoppage. “Nothing is further from reality. I can assure you that it is carrying out its functions with total normality and we are giving it all the attention and rigor it deserves ”, emphasized the president of the organization and Minister of Public Governance and Self-Government, who has chosen to limit herself to reading a few pages that had written even in the turn of reply and ignoring the specific questions of Barrio, such as how many files are pending to be resolved. In addition, it has not mentioned at any time the matter related to Darpon, beyond noting that reports will be published in the future.
Among the issues he has in his queue, in addition to the one already resolved by Keralty, which entered on November 26, there is one from January 2020. It is the case of the director of the Institute of Memory (Gogora), Aintzane Ezenarro, and the possible irregularities in the continuous direct awards to the Montai group of companies, owned by a PNV official, Aitor Elorza. Also, more recently it has been announced that will study the role of the Minister of Health, Gotzone Sagardui, in the controversy over irregular vaccinations against COVID-19 of the managers of the Bilbao hospitals of Santa Marina and Basurto, José Luis Sabas and Eduardo Maíz, both former councilors of the PNV.
In the debate with Barrio, Garamendi has hinted that some of these issues could be resolved even if there is no public opinion. “In 2020 there is no agreement because the Commission understood that for several of the consultations and complaints presented there was no room for any ethical reproach,” he said. However, the internal regulations state that “the agreements of the Public Ethics Commission will be public, and will be accessible through the website enabled for this purpose.” Furthermore, in the vast majority of agreements adopted since its creation, no ethical violations have been observed, with the exceptions of the proposed dismissal of Agustín Elizegi at the head of the IT company EJIE due to contracts with his former company or the warning to now deputy counselor Hernando Lacalle for not communicating his accusation in the ‘Denokinn case’, then archived. Government sources explain that “the Public Ethics Commission only makes public when there is an agreement or resolution on the case.” And they add: “It does not inform when there is none. It is so regulated.”