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The federal government is refusing to say how much it is paying the four companies it contracted to help distribute the Covid-19 vaccine, saying the information is “commercial in confidence”.
The government has hired four private contractors to assist it with the mammoth task of distributing the vaccines: Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, International SOS, and Sonic.
But the government has so far refused to divulge key details about its contracts with the companies. There is no public record on AusTender, the government’s contract database, of its agreements with the companies. Such records would usually say how much the companies are being paid and what process was used to select them for the work.
The government has also declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about how much the companies are being paid. The Department of Health said it was “committed to transparency” and would disclose total expenditure on the contracts when appropriate.
“The contractual arrangements with the suppliers of Vaccine Administration Services are structured on a unit basis rather than a lump sum basis as the services are demand-driven,” the department said. “Unit pricing arrangements for each of the suppliers is commercial in confidence and on that basis cannot be disclosed.”
The government insists it conducted an “open” and “competitive” process to select the four companies, though in previous correspondence it suggested the tender was limited. Whatever the process, the four companies have been selected to sit on a panel of suppliers, who can be asked by government at short notice to supplement the vaccine workforce without any further open or competitive tender.
Panel arrangements are typically used in situations where the government regularly needs to procure a particular type of good or service – IT services, for example.
“The Department of Health conducted a thorough competitive procurement process to identify value-for-money options for the provision of vaccine administration services,” the department said in a statement.
“Through this process Healthcare Australia, International SOS, Sonic Clinical Services and Aspen were successful.”
The vaccine distribution effort is widely considered the nation’s biggest peacetime logistical operation.
But it has run into early problems, which the government has blamed on one of the private contractors, HCA. An HCA doctor wrongly administered four times the Pfizer dose to an elderly couple in Queensland, delaying the rollout and prompting the government to threaten to terminate its contract.
The doctor had not conducted the mandatory Covid-19 training and the company provided misleading information to the government when it was questioned on the incident.
The Guardian on Wednesday revealed that, years earlier, the company similarly failed to ensure that a man pretending to be a nurse had appropriate qualifications and training, an error that allowed him to work in a Darwin hospital’s intensive care unit.
HCA is owned by private equity firm Crescent Capital, which is a regular political donor. Crescent Capital has made $208,250 in contributions to the Liberals, Labor and the Nationals since 2016-17, and has been linked with former Labor senator Sam Dastyari.
It currently lists Christopher Pyne’s lobbying firm GC Advisory as a federal lobbyist.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Australian government won’t reveal how much it is paying companies to distribute Covid vaccine | Health