The Slovenia Times

Court of Audit finds government, Commodity Reserves Agency inefficient in PPE procurement


Ljubljana - The Court of Audit has found in a report on the efficiency of procurement of protective and medical equipment for containing the spread of the new coronavirus that, although the circumstances were extraordinary, the government, ministries and the Commodity Reserves Agency had been inefficient in the PPE procurement.

The report published on Thursday, which relates to the entire 2020, says that, in addition to the government and the agency, also being inefficient were the ministries of health, economy and defence.

The court says in the report that the review has taken into account the extraordinary circumstances in which the audited entities had operated during the period of the procurement of PPE and medical equipment.

These showed mainly in instability of the global market, shortage of equipment, as well as in the lack of information about whether or how fast and in what extent Covid-19 incidence and death rates in Slovenia could be expected.

Nevertheless, the government, the three ministries and the agency were not efficiently organised in the public procurement and supply of PPE and medical equipment, the Court of Audit adds.

"Public procurement procedures were not performed in line with the principles of transparency, efficiency and equal treatment of providers of protective and medical equipment, and certain procedures were incompatible with regulations and other acts."

It adds that the assessments of the needs for equipment had mainly been disorganised, unsystematic and incoherent.

The Health Ministry failed to immediately start securing stocks and systematically asses the needs for urgent purchases of PPE and medical equipment, including ventilators.

The report notes that the situation regarding stocks had not been established correctly, which led to assessments of the needs for equipment not being realistic, reliable and timely.

By establishing an inter-ministerial task force and transferring part of public procurement procedures onto it, the government further fragmented these activities and made the Commodity Reserves Agency sign contracts without getting insight into and having influence on the processing of bids.

The signing of contracts in that period was not efficient, as the agency, government and task force did not make sure that contracts are signed based on complete bids. The agency signed three contracts without receiving a bid at all.

According to the court, the government and the Economy Ministry enabled various persons not employed in the agency or not authorised to participate in the procedure to give specific instructions to the agency about what bidders and under what conditions it should sign contracts.

The agency also signed a number of contracts under less favourable conditions than presented in relevant bids, while also failing to justify the reasons for signing immediate annexes, including after the end of the epidemic was declared, when sufficient quantities of equipment had already been ordered.

In two cases, the agency performed the public procurement procedure and signed contracts for supply of goods after the goods had already been delivered and claimed.

What is more, certain users were distributed inappropriate equipment from the commodity reserves, including ventilators that could not be used in hospitals immediately for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Certain quantities of the equipment was also distributed to entities which were not eligible to it, and without adequate explanations, the report adds.

The bodies mentioned in the report have been issued several recommendations, with the Court of Audit asking the government to come up with a plan for drafting changes to relevant regulations that would ensure better response in extraordinary situations.

The Commodity Reserves Agency will need to prove to the court that it has a system in place under which it will be clear at every moment what are the quantities and types of stocks, and that the state of stocks follows the five-year commodity reserve programme.

The PPE procurement by the government is also subject to inquiry by two separate parliamentary commissions and of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which is dealing with 21 separate cases.


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