LONDON (Reuters) – MPs said on Sunday that the British government would be exposed to financial risks from its spending of 372 billion pounds on the epidemic for decades, and they also said that more than 2 billion pounds was spent on unusable protective equipment.
In two reports on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said lessons must be learned before a promised public inquiry scheduled for 2022.
“With the amounts that have been spent on COVID measures to date, the government needs to be clear, now, how and when this will be managed in the future,” said Meg Heller, president of the PAC.
“The constant risk to taxpayers will continue for 20 years on things like arts and culture compensation loans, not to mention other new risks that government departments must quickly learn to manage.”
The authority highlighted an estimated loss of 26 billion pounds through fraud and default on loans provided to companies to help fight the pandemic as an example of the ongoing financial risks.
In a second report, the commission said there were “unacceptably high” levels of waste, with 2.1 billion pieces of inappropriate personal protective equipment purchased, equivalent to more than £2 billion in public funds.
The government has said that only 0.84% of all PPE is unusable and that it has plans to reuse those that cannot be used in health services.
“There are robust processes in place to ensure that government spending is always cost-effective for taxpayers,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Health.
The opposition Labor Party said the results were further evidence of the government’s failures and said an investigation into the pandemic should begin immediately.
Michael Holden reports. Editing by Alex Richardson
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