WARSAW, May 25 (Reuters) – Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski denied on Monday any wrongdoing as he reacted to accusations of inadequate supervision over procurement of equipment to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Allegations against Szumowski, a highly popular politician of the nationalist government, have hit the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party ahead of a presidential election, according to political scientists.
Victory in a ballot held during the pandemic, which has infected 21,440 and killed 996 people in Poland, is crucial for PiS, as the president has the power to veto new legislation and to trigger an early general election.
Polish media have accused Szumowski’s ministry of inadequate supervision of the procurement of items like protective masks. Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported that the ministry bought masks with fake certificates from a skiing instructor who is a family fiend of Szumowski.
“Neither I, nor my brother, nor my wife, have done anything wrong. There is not a single fact that would indicate any irregularities,” Szumowski told private broadcaster Polsat News.
“It is evidently a game resulting from the election calendar and I have become a bit of a target to hit,” Szumowski said.
Poland’s incumbent President Andrzej Duda, an ally of PiS, remains the favourite in the election which is expected to be held at the end of June or early July, but support for him is falling, according to opinion polls.
Duda and his party are struggling with image problems caused by recent incidents, including a public radio station accused of attempting to censor a song critical of PiS.
A government spokesman apologised on Monday on behalf of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who was photographed sitting in a restaurant with officials, even though he is only allowed to do so with his family. (Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, editing by Ed Osmond)