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The price of masks bought by Health increased 10 times in just one week at the start of the pandemic.

Latest NewsThe price of masks bought by Health increased 10 times in just one week at the start of the pandemic.

Several masks in a pharmacy in Madrid.Juan Joe Martin (EFE)

The Accounts Chamber is compiling new reports on contracts signed by public administrations during the first phase of the covid-19 pandemic, and these reports will confirm the presence of numerous shortcomings, Enriqueta Chicano, president of the control body, said on Thursday. . The agency concluded that in those days of the beginning of the health crisis, given the rush to obtain materials in the face of the spread of the virus, resorted to “almost everything” and bypassed the solvency requirements of supplier companies. The latest of these reports, a draft version of which EL PAÍS had access to, includes an example of the price increase that led to this maximum emergency: in the last week of March 2020, the Ministry of Health moved from paying €0.27 for an FPP2 Mask to paying €2, 67 euros: 10 times more.

Chicano explained that in many cases, contract vendors were not required to have “solvency criteria” or “meet some of the requirements that any company must have in order to contract with public administrations,” such as experience in the sector. This type of practice, added the chairman of the Accounts Chamber, “is something that was ignored in order to find a product that was a priority and urgent at the time.” However, Chicano believes that there are “many” government contracts that are “very well executed” but acknowledges that some instances of violations are already known. “And there will be something else that we will know without a doubt,” he adds.

The task of the Accounts Chamber is not to act as an investigative body, but as a guarantor and control over compliance with administrative regulations, the good practice of administrations. And in that sense, the two reports to date—on contracts awarded by city councils of more than 300,000 people, and by independent bodies and entities such as museums or state-owned companies—have already confirmed that many of the existing controls in normal times were were not enforced during the pandemic, allowing for, among other things, unusual increases in the prices of purchased items or outright improper fees.

The latest report is still in the draft stage. We are talking about cost control in the social and labor sphere and social security of the National Institute of Health Management (Ingesa), which is part of the Ministry of Health, according to its website. In its final conclusions, the paper states that “the highest price for FFP2 masks comes from the acquisition on April 3, 2020, which had a unit price of €4.17.” In terms of volume (56,200,000 FFP2 masks), a purchase from a single supplier stands out, the amount of which is 95.14% of the total amount spent on this type of supply.

On the other hand, the purchase price analysis “highlights the significant difference between the purchase price of FFP2 masks in the month of March, which ranged from EUR 0.2781 per item in the Covid 5 file (March 20, 2020) to EUR 2.67 per item. euro per unit in Covid 28 file (March 28, 2020).”

The seven partial reports prepared by the Accounts Chamber will be included in the final macro report. The investigations reached the volume of contracts worth up to 2,000 million euros spent by various administrations on the purchase of medical supplies between March and May 2020. More than half of these expenditures were for the Autonomous Communities.

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The new reports will include a tour of the contracting practices of these communities, both those that do not have their own supervisory body—Castilla-La Mancha, Cantabria, La Rioja, Murcia and Extremadura, in addition to Ceuta and Melilla—and others. In this sense, “the actions for multilateral cooperation between the State General Administration and the Autonomous Communities developed within the framework of pandemic management are being reviewed.” Departmental reports will be approved sequentially. When all of them are completed, the Accounts Chamber will prepare the aforementioned macro report for all administrations by the end of the year.

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