September 23, 2021
Full clarity needed on total amount of public money spent on faulty Covid-related goods and equipment – Mairéad Farrell TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Mairéad Farrell TD has called on the government to come clean on the amount of public money that was spent on faulty goods and equipment arising from Covid-related purchases. 

This follows announcements in relation to the purchases of faulty PPE, below standard hand sanitiser and ventilators, which were never put to use. 

Minister for State for Public Procurement Ossian Smyth today conceded that more faulty purchases would likely be revealed in a forthcoming report.

Teachta Farrell said:

“We know that there were significant audit failures and failures of due diligence. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General, more than a third of the HSE spend on PPE had to be written off. 

“We spent around €1billion on PPE. What about the hand sanitisers, which featured recently on the Public Accounts Committee? We know, due to FOI and appearances before PAC, that the HSE purchased the now infamous Virapro hand sanitiser in March 2020.

“The HSE received the shipment in July 2020. But only a month later, they learned that hand sanitiser had to be registered with the Department of Agriculture to ensure it was safe for use. But it wasn’t, so had to be recalled. 

“Then there was obviously a massive failure with the ventilators. The HSE ordered 2,200 ventilators at a cost of €81million from different suppliers that it had not previously used.

“However, only 465 were delivered from China and none of them were put to clinical use.The committee heard that the HSE was paying on average €28,000 for a ventilator before Covid-19, but the average cost from the new companies were €36,936 each. 

“Paul Reid said the HSE has an outstanding amount of about €35 million and are expecting, imminently, a recovery of another €11million.

“Today, during Priority Questions, I asked Minister for State Ossian Smyth whether he could confirm that the PPE, hand sanitisers and ventilators were the only purchases of faulty goods and equipment made by the HSE, or whether there was more waiting to be revealed. 

“Minister Smyth, to his credit, conceded that he expects that there was a lot more and it will be revealed in a forthcoming report.

“Minister McGrath has announced an interim Procurement Reform Board, which will look at these failures of due diligence. 

“We need full transparency and a tightening-up of regulation in this regard. As I pointed out to both ministers, a recent World Bank report which ranked countries across a range of factors scored Ireland very poorly when it came to regulation. 

“Weakness of regulation creates risks, and these risks were realised during the pandemic.”

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