PPE contract failures could cost taxpayers £2.7bn
In a report published this week, the Public Accounts Committee identified ‘significant failures’ in the management of PPE contracts which could lead to a £2.7billion bill for taxpayers.
The Department of Health and Social Action (DHSC) remains in conflict with many suppliers with whom it has contracted over the quality of the PPE supplied and accepts that part of the excess stock ends up being incinerated.
MPs say there is little sign the government is taking action against potentially fraudulent suppliers despite the DHSC’s estimate that up to 5% of PPE spending may have involved fraud.
The committee concludes that “suppliers and intermediaries are likely to have made excessive profits while supplying substandard PPE”.
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They say insufficient due diligence checks ahead of many contractual agreements have left DHSC “crippled” in some cases. Disputes with suppliers over 176 PPE contracts worth up to £2.7billion have yet to be settled.
The DHSC has spent more than £13billion on PPE supplies during the pandemic, but has since failed to put in place a system to catalog the equipment, currently spread across 70 sites in the UK as well as ‘in China.
MEPs warn that the government cannot assume rapid sourcing at this scale will no longer be needed and urge that more robust and transparent practices be put in place.
PAC Chair Dame Meg Hillier MP said when releasing the report: “The departure from normal approaches to due diligence, record keeping, decision making and accountability in relation to PPE contracts puts a blot on the UK’s response to the pandemic.
“Even if you accept that proper procedure will have to slip in times of crisis, the complete collapse of some of the most established civil service practices is beyond comprehension. The taxpayer will pay for these decisions for years. »
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said Politics.co.uk“Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to save lives. Despite massive price inflation and unprecedented global demand, we delivered over 21.4 billion items of PPE to frontline staff to keep them safe, with just 3% of the PPE we purchased unusable in any context.
“It is simply wrong to suggest that the department does not know how much PPE it has or where it is. We have a comprehensive data system in place to allow us to monitor the storage network and dispose of any excess inventory.
“The department also takes fraud very seriously and is exploring all available options – including working with law enforcement partners – to hold those who commit fraud to account and seek to recover losses. .”