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Coronavirus

Watchdog Slams UK Over Secrecy in Virus Equipment Contracts

November 18, 2020

LONDON — Britain’s public spending watchdog says the government spent billions of pounds, without proper transparency, in a scramble to secure protective equipment early in the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Audit Office said in a report published Wednesday that companies with links to politicians were fast-tracked and had more chance of getting a contract than other applicants.

Like many countries, the U.K. was caught without enough masks, gowns, gloves and other equipment to keep health care workers and the public safe as coronavirus cases skyrocketed.

In the push to build up stocks, the government awarded 8,600 contracts worth18 billion pounds ($24 billion) between March and July, most without a competitive tender process.

The auditor said in a sample of cases it studied, “departments failed to document key decisions, such as why they chose a particular supplier or used emergency procurement, and failed to document their consideration of risks, including how they had identified and managed any potential conflicts of interest.”

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