Much of the last two years have seen governments all over the world in a purchasing panic due to the pandemic. Understandably there has been an increase in direct award contracts, in response to the health emergency.
However, there have also been concerns over some fast-tracked, ‘VIP’ or other questionable procurement in some countries, and last week, a report from investigative Australian reporters Four Corners reported an Australian Government PPE contract worth a staggering $1.1 billion (AUD)awarded to Canberra-based company Aspen Medical. The contract was awarded without a competitive tender, to a company with allegedly no prior experience in the provision of such volumes of PPE. The Aspen Medical brand positions itself as a global provider of guaranteed, innovative, and tailored healthcare solutions across a diverse range of sectors. Unsurprisingly, the company’s pre-tax profits soared to more than $420 million through the pandemic, after combined losses of more than $7 million in the previous two years.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), which investigated the tender found that even though the due diligence processes were inconsistent and sometimes inefficient, the procurements were “largely consistent with the proper use and management of public resources”. However, Ford Corners and Columbo Sunday Times reported that the federal government’s procurement guidelines — which usually require a public tender for large contracts — were only formally suspended after Aspen had begun filling federal government orders for PPE and that Aspen has been under additional scrutiny for its political connections and political party donations in Australia, as well as an alleged association with money laundering in Sri Lanka. Watch the full Four Corners report here.
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