ZAGREB, Dec 8, 2020 – Scientist Ivan Djikic on Tuesday again sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, asking him to say why the government did not define rules to regulate the issue of conflict of interest for members of the government’s Scientific Council as some of them are in a conflict of interest.
“It is evident that some of the members of the Scientific Council are in a classic conflict of interest as they have a private firm (Gordan Lauc), a private institute (Miroslav Radman) and a private hospital (Dragan Primorac) which they have not declared publicly since the Council was formed,” Djikic says, wondering why a code of conduct for members of the Scientific Council for the fight against COVID-19 had not been defined.
Membership of Council continues despite conflict of interest
In his letter Djikic asks PM Plenkovic why he has allowed Lauc and Primorac, who in November declared a conflict of interest, to continue sitting on the Council, noting that the government has failed to comment on the matter.
Djikic notes that Lauc owns Genos d.o.o., a company that has validated a PCR test for COVID-19 and sells the GlycanAge biological age test, which is a good predictor of severe forms of COVID-19.
Lauc informed other members of the Council of this only on November 14, eight months after the Council was formed, even though during that period he discussed the types of testing that should be promoted and publicly spoke about these matters, Djikic says.
As for Primorac, Djikic says that the private hospital which he heads has been charging HRK 350 (approx. €46) per antigen test since October 17.
That price is among the highest in the country, he says, noting that the government has made it possible for a private business to earn very high amounts on testing without being subject to any rules or restrictions.
Suspicion of coronavirus profiteering must be confirmed or dismissed fast
“Do you feel any personal responsibility or responsibility on the part of the Croatian government for the fact that your advisers Lauc, Primorac and Radman should have declared a conflict of interest and you should have reacted to it, but did not?,” the scientist asks in his letter, noting that citizens need quick answers that can confirm or dismiss suspicion of conflict of interest in healthcare and coronavirus profiteering.
In a comment on reports that the government no longer needs the services of five members of its Scientific Council who signed a public appeal while keeping the three members suspected of conflict of interest on the Council, Djikic says that confusing and contradictory claims about the coronavirus pandemic have been sent to the public for quite a while.
“With your latest act you have shown, probably most clearly so far, what you base your choice of advisers on, what you value about them and to what you are indifferent. But regardless of everything, my advice to you is to think well if the five top experts, who have worked free of charge and wholeheartedly for this country, are the ones who should be replaced,” Djikic asks in reference to Andreja Ambriovic Ristov, Nenad Ban, Petra Klepac, Branko Kolaric and Igor Rudan.
Ban says no longer member, others without comment
Molecular biologist Nenad Ban told the media on Monday that he was no longer a member of the government’s Scientific Council for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, stressing that his statements were based on scientific arguments.
He noted that he did not wish to criticise anyone but rather just communicate the situation and predictions based on scientific data.
There has been no comment so far from the other researchers.
Late on Monday evening, the government refuted claims that PM Plenkovic had decided to dismiss the five members of the Scientific Council who had signed a public appeal expressing their concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.