DHSC chiefs acknowledge slips in record-keeping over £600m Covid testing contracts
Leaders of health department and UKHSA admit to MPs that some meetings with Randox went undocumented
The Department of Health and Social Care has admitted its record keeping was not up to scratch at times during the pandemic.
DHSC permanent secretary Shona Dunn and UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dame Jenny Harries acknowledged the department’s failings in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee about government contracts with Randox.
The National Audit Office said in March that DHSC had failed to adequately document key decisions on Covid testing contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Government procurement records show that, between October 2020 and September 2021, Randox won contracts for Covid testing services cumulatively worth almost £600m.
The health services company and DHSC were at the centre of a lobbying scandal last year, when it emerged Owen Paterson, an MP at the time, had lobbied then-health secretary Matt Hancock on behalf of the healthcare firm for Covid contracts.
DHSC published minutes, notes and correspondence relating to government contracts awarded to Randox in February. But this did not include documents from several meetings.
“We recognise that, at times, due to the incredible pace of work tackling the biggest public health emergency in living memory, the recording of minutes from some meetings did not happen or did not meet the high standards of the department,” the duo said. “We will do our utmost to ensure this does not happen again.”
The department has enhanced its quality assurance process and reviewed other relevant processes since the meetings took place, Dunn and Harries said.
The letter was written as a follow-up to the duo’s appearance at PAC on 18 May, to answer questions posed which they said they could not answer at the time.
The Matrix programme – which includes Treasury, Cabinet Office and DHSC – begins engaging with potential suppliers
Department advertises roles for savvy senior managers to oversee supplier engagements
Minister reveals that fallout continues to affect platforms and data
Removal of guidelines could mean departments can now spend up to £20m on consultants without requiring external approval