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Government failures to control PPE contracts could cost taxpayers £2.7 billion

20 July 2022

The Public Accounts Committee identifies ‘significant failings’ in the management of PPE contracts that have led to a stockpile of almost 4 billion items that are not needed.

The Department of Health and Social Care remains in dispute with many suppliers it entered into contract with over the quality of the PPE provided and accepts that some surplus stock will end up being incinerated.

In their report published today, MPs say there is little sign of the Government taking action against potentially fraudulent suppliers despite DHSC’s estimate that as much as 5% of PPE expenditure may have involved fraud.

The Committee concludes that suppliers and intermediaries are likely to have made excessive profits while providing substandard PPE. Insufficient due diligence checks prior to contract agreement have left the Department paralysed from acting in some cases. Disputes with suppliers on 176 PPE contracts worth up to £2.7 billion are still to be settled.

The Department of Health and Social Care spent more than £13 billion sourcing PPE during the pandemic but has since failed to set up a system to catalogue equipment, currently spread across 70 locations in the UK as well as in China.

MPs warn that the government cannot assume that a rapid procurement on this scale will not be required again and urge more robust and transparent practices to be put in place.

Char's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“The departure from normal approaches to due diligence, record keeping, decision making and accountability in relation to PPE contracts puts a stain on the UK’s response to the pandemic.

Even if you accept that some proper procedure will have to slip in times of crisis the complete collapse of some of the most well-established civil service practices beggars belief. The taxpayer will be paying for these decisions for years to come.”

Further information

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