Boris Johnson’s government spent £4 billion ($5 billion) on unusable personal protective equipment during the pandemic and now “plans to burn significant volumes” of it, Parliament’s spending watchdog found.
Millions of items of kit won’t be used because it doesn’t meet National Health Service standards, the Public Accounts Committee said in a report Friday. Overall, the government lost 75% of the £12 billion spent on PPE in the first year of the Covid-19 outbreak due to inflated prices and faulty kit.
The report underscores how much Johnson’s ministers have worked to shift the narrative on their response to the pandemic, focusing on the vaccine roll out and how restrictions have been lifted. But before that, the government had faced intense criticism, including over the lack of PPE, the shortage of Covid-19 tests and delayed intervention as the virus spread.
PPE purchasing was “perhaps the most shameful episode the UK government response to the pandemic,” committee chair Meg Hillier, an opposition Labour Party MP, said in an emailed statement. The government paid “obscenely inflated prices and payments to middlemen in a chaotic rush, during which they chucked out even the most cursory due diligence,” she said.
The Department of Health and Social Care did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The government says it will burn much of the unused PPE “to generate power,” the panel of MPs said in its report, adding that the cost and environmental impact of doing so is “unclear.”