Scottish PPE contracts handed out 'fairly' but just 20 per cent hit transparency target

Around £340m worth of PPE contracts handed out by Scotland’s NHS were awarded fairly, the auditor general has said.

However, NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) failed to meet transparency targets for 80 per cent of its PPE contracts during the Covid-19, impacting the ability for these contracts to be assessed by the public.

In a new report auditing NSS’ 2020/21 response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Audit Scotland said none of the contracts handed out without competition under emergency procedures showed evidence of preferential treatment.

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Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “NHS NSS has been integral to Scotland's response to the pandemic, and it had to procure PPE in very difficult circumstances.

Doctors and nurses prepare to enter the Covid ward putting on the PPE safety equipment at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

"Staff were working under extreme pressure and did not have time to follow standard procurement processes. But they did a good job of managing the risks of awarding contracts under emergency arrangements to ensure PPE was secured for front-line staff."

The report states that there was a 212 per cent increase in volume of PPE ordered by NSS in 2020/21 compared to 2019/20.

In total, 78 contracts worth £340m for PPE were awarded to companies, with 29 of these with a value of £98m awarded to new suppliers with no competition.

The report states: “The auditor reported that the audit work did not find any issues with the quality of goods procured or the companies contracted.

"However, two contracts were identified where total spend was higher than the original contract value. An overspend of £0.986 million was identified in an approved contract valued at £0.147 million with the second contract overspend of £3.149 million on an approved contract of £12.049 million."

The report does criticise NSS for failing to meet transparency targets around the awarding of the contracts.

Public bodies are required to publish contract award notices within 30 days, however just 20 per cent of the 74 PPE contracts were published within that time limit.

NSS claimed the “unprecedented demands” on its procurement team meant this target was “challenging”, the report said.

The report also praised the construction and decommission of the £51.2m NHS Lousia Jordan hospital.

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