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The agency created on the top of the Covid-19 pandemic to defend 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 Test and Trace stock, reminiscent of check kits and different medical gear, value £3.3bn and transferred to the UK Health Security Agency couldn’t be correctly accounted for, in accordance to a report printed on Wednesday by the House of Commons public accounts committee.
The findings come as the federal government faces recriminations over its response to the pandemic, with a public inquiry beneath means into the effectiveness of its preparedness and response technique.
Dame Meg Hillier MP, committee chair, stated it was “completely staggering” that an “organisation envisaged as a foundation stone of our collective security was established with a leadership hamstrung by a lack of formal governance and financial controls so poor that billions of pounds in NHS Test and Trace inventory can no longer be properly accounted for”.
The report famous a scarcity of sufficient governance from the outset and referred to the appointment because the agency’s chief govt of Dr Jenny Harries, who on the time had restricted technical expertise of working a fancy organisation.
The committee referred to as on the UKHSA urgently to apply sturdy monetary controls, develop a plan to ship full accounts and create a stockpile of gear and medication within the occasion of one other health disaster.
“For the government not to make serious preparations for any future pandemic would be utterly inexcusable,” Hillier stated.
The UKHSA was established in April 2021 to substitute Public Health England, the agency blamed by ministers for its muddled response within the first 12 months of the pandemic.
The new organisation, which was initially referred to as the National Institute for Health Protection, was supposed to give attention to health safety and use scientific and health proof to reply to future illness threats.
The division got here under criticism from the National Audit Office, the impartial public spending watchdog, earlier this 12 months for failing to full an “effective programme of year-end stock counts” and for a “lack of adequate governance, oversight and control”.
The public accounts committee additionally pointed to an absence of efficient management over the agency’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 agency nonetheless lacked sufficient controls over its shares of private protecting gear (PPE), and continued to incur excessive prices for storage and disposal of unusable objects.
In the previous two years the agency has written off £14.9bn of spending, the report discovered, together with £9.9bn value of PPE and £2.6bn of Covid-19 medicines, partly as a result of the federal government overpaid for objects and over-ordered.
Harries stated the UKHSA was “created in unprecedented circumstances when tackling Covid was our first priority, and we inherited significant pre-existing accounts challenges without full governance autonomy”.
“We have already instituted strong governance arrangements in a hugely complex organisation at the earliest opportunity within the controls available to us,” the agency’s chief govt added. “Despite these inherited financial challenges, the UKHSA continues to fulfil its priority remit — to protect lives.”
“In the face of an unprecedented pandemic, we had to compete in an overheated global market to procure items to protect the public, frontline health and care workers and our NHS,” a authorities spokesperson stated. “We will consider the committee’s recommendations and formally respond in due course.”