Sinn Féin member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, Matt Carthy TD, has criticised the HSE for refusing to comment on reports that it purchased over €3 million worth of hand sanitiser that has not been approved for use.
Teachta Carthy said he intends to question HSE officials on this and other procurement plunders at an upcoming PAC hearing.
Teachta Carthy said:
“It is recognised that procurement of PPE was particularly challenging during the pandemic; but it was compounded in this state by the longstanding poor procurement record within our health services.
“Regardless of the circumstances, there are minimum due diligence standards that must be met. For example, in the process of procuring a biocidal product, an obvious first step should be to ensure that the product is on the Biocidal Product Register and therefore approved for use.
“This is not a complicated – the register is publicly available online, and registration numbers can be checked in seconds. Yet reports now suggest that the HSE paid €3million of taxpayers’ money on a product that cannot be used.
“This was not an isolated incident – it bears a striking similarity to the Virapro scandal of last year.
“In that instance it was the European Union anti-fraud agency (OLAF) that identified an unsafe product for which the HSE had completed a €9.1 million purchase because it had failed to notice separate administrative issues that should have prevented that sale occurring regardless.
“The Material Data Safety Sheet provided by that company to the HSE did not match that which was associated with the product on the Biocidal Product Register, while that supplier also indicated on the Health Business Service Quotation Request that their product complied with an EU Regulation that specifically states it ‘only applies to cosmetic products’ and not ‘biocidal products’ as opposed to the relevant EC Regulation.
“The HSE and other agencies is required to solicit this type of information so as to ensure public safety. This process involves agencies taking suppliers at their word that products being provided meet relevant criteria.
“However, it now appears that the HSE do not even complete the most rudimentary checks. They solicit documents and information but regularly fail to verify that information is correct and in order.
“The HSE were unable to appear before the Public Accounts Committee prior to the summer as a result of the IT system hack. I therefore expect they will be appearing in the coming weeks and I will be questioning officials on these procurement blunders.”