UK health agency failed to account for £3.3bn of Covid inventory, say MPs

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The company created on the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic to guard the UK from future viral threats has been strongly criticised by a cross-party group of MPs for its lack of governance and weak monetary controls.

NHS Check and Hint stock, resembling take a look at kits and different medical gear, value £3.3bn and transferred to the UK Well being Safety Company couldn’t be correctly accounted for, in accordance with a report revealed on Wednesday by the Home of Commons public accounts committee. 

The findings come as the federal government faces recriminations over its response to the pandemic, with a public inquiry underneath method into the effectiveness of its preparedness and response technique.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, committee chair, stated it was “fully staggering” that an “organisation envisaged as a basis stone of our collective safety was established with a management hamstrung by a scarcity of formal governance and monetary controls so poor that billions of kilos in NHS Check and Hint stock can now not be correctly accounted for”.

The report famous a scarcity of satisfactory governance from the outset and referred to the appointment because the company’s chief govt of Dr Jenny Harries, who on the time had restricted technical expertise of working a posh organisation.

The committee known as on the UKHSA urgently to use sturdy monetary controls, develop a plan to ship full accounts and create a stockpile of apparatus and drugs within the occasion of one other well being disaster.

“For the federal government to not make critical preparations for any future pandemic can be completely inexcusable,” Hillier stated.

The UKHSA was established in April 2021 to exchange Public Well being England, the company blamed by ministers for its muddled response within the first yr of the pandemic.

The brand new organisation, which was initially known as the Nationwide Institute for Well being Safety, was supposed to give attention to well being safety and use scientific and well being proof to answer future illness threats.

The division got here underneath criticism from the Nationwide Audit Workplace, the impartial public spending watchdog, earlier this yr for failing to finish an “efficient programme of year-end inventory counts” and for a “lack of satisfactory governance, oversight and management”.

The general public accounts committee additionally pointed to an absence of efficient management over the company’s money administration processes, together with a failure to carry out financial institution reconciliations, a course of used to confirm bookkeeping, or to conduct inventory takes on emergency stockpiles. 

The committee additionally discovered that three years after the pandemic began the company nonetheless lacked satisfactory controls over its shares of private protecting gear (PPE), and continued to incur excessive prices for storage and disposal of unusable gadgets.

Prior to now two years the company has written off £14.9bn of spending, the report discovered, together with £9.9bn value of PPE and £2.6bn of Covid-19 medicines, partially as a result of the federal government overpaid for gadgets and over-ordered.

Harries stated the UKHSA was “created in unprecedented circumstances when tackling Covid was our first precedence, and we inherited vital pre-existing accounts challenges with out full governance autonomy”.

“We have now already instituted robust governance preparations in a massively complicated organisation on the earliest alternative inside the controls obtainable to us,” the company’s chief govt added. “Regardless of these inherited monetary challenges, the UKHSA continues to fulfil its precedence remit — to guard lives.”

“Within the face of an unprecedented pandemic, we needed to compete in an overheated international market to acquire gadgets to guard the general public, frontline well being and care employees and our NHS,” a authorities spokesperson stated. “We’ll think about the committee’s suggestions and formally reply in the end.”

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