March 7, 2023
Public Accounts Committee chair Brian Stanley TD seeks answers following concerning report into HSE ventilator spend

Public Accounts Committee Chairperson (PAC), Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, has called on the HSE to explain its expenditure on ventilators during the Covid-19 pandemic following a damning report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The report, published this morning, Special Report 114 – Emergency Procurement of Ventilators by the HSE, outlines failures by the HSE to adequately assess its stock of ventilators and its subsequent capacity needs. The report criticises the HSE for its lack of due diligence with new suppliers and its failure to collect over €22.3m in refunds for faulty products.

Teachta Stanley said:

“As Chairperson of PAC, I am very concerned by the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) report on the HSE’s procurement of ventilators during the pandemic.

“It is evident from this review that the HSE failed to meet basic standards in procurement processes.

“The review found no evidence of a business case being provided by the HSE for the procurement of ventilators. The HSE was unable to assess how many ventilators it had on hand due to a lack of a centralised asset register. I have consistently called on the HSE to introduce an Integrated Financial Management System, such a system would include an asset register.

“The HSE estimated that it required the procurement of an additional 326 ventilators based on the maximum critical care capacity in the system. Despite this, the HSE sought sanction for the purchase of 1,900 and placed orders for 3,500.

“Despite only requiring an additional 362 ventilators, 581 ventilators were purchased from established suppliers at a cost of €21m – nearly twice the estimated number clinically required.

“Furthermore, 467 ventilators were purchased from new suppliers at a cost of €81m, almost five times the cost per ventilator compared to established suppliers. The review found that no due diligence checks were carried out on four of the ten new suppliers and most of the suppliers had no experience with ventilators.

“The C&AG found that there were serious quality issues with a 41% failure rate on those tested. Despite the HSE being advised by the Head of Clinical Engineering to cancel orders, they chose to continue with a supply of another 365 units. None of the 476 ventilators from new suppliers were put into clinical use in Ireland.

“As chair of the PAC, I want to know what progress the HSE and the Department of Health have made pursuing refunds for over €22.3m in orders that we either didn’t receive or received but were not fit for purpose.

“I want to recognise that these decisions were taken during turbulent times and swift decisions had to be made. However, it is in times of crisis that We need adequate checks and balance the most. I am very concerned by the findings of this review, and I believe questions need to be answered by the HSE.

“Why were the HSE unable to put together a business case for this procurement? What systems are being put in place for any future crisis.

“Why were due diligence checks not carried out on new suppliers and why were orders not cancelled when we knew the products were either not fit for purpose or were in excess supply?

“What progress is being made to collect the €22.3m in orders that we either didn’t receive or were not fit for purpose?

“As Chair of the PAC, I will be asking the committee to write to the HSE for answers.” 

The report can be read here.

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