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Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, has described the Department of Health as “a smoking ruin” as it struggled to procure PPE in the first wave of coronavirus last spring and called for an urgent inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus.
The shortage of personal protective equipment such as masks, visors and gowns forced the government to order in supplies at inflated prices, with some items being found to be useless once they arrived.
Cummings told MPs there was a need for an “urgent” inquiry and “a very, very hard look” at what went wrong and why, adding that the decision to pull the vaccine procurement effort out of the department demonstrated the importance of being able to made fast decisions without the usual bureaucracy.
Cummings appeared before the Commons science and technology committee to explain the rational behind the proposed Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria), a radical new funding agency that would aim to back risky projects that have the potential to transform society.
Asked about the genesis of the idea, Cummings said its creation was one of the conditions he insisted upon when he was asked by the prime minister to join No 10. The agency is based loosely on the 1960s US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa).
“The prime minister came to speak to me the Sunday before he became prime minister and said will I come to Downing Street to help sort out the huge Brexit nightmare?” Cummings said.
“I said: ‘Yes, if first of all you are deadly serious about actually getting Brexit done and avoiding a second referendum.
“‘Secondly, double the science budget, third create some Arpa-like entity and fourth support me in trying to change how Whitehall works because it’s a disaster zone’. and he said: ‘Deal.”’
Cummings said the meeting took place in his living room with just him and Johnson present.
He said the government’s procurement system was an “expensive disaster zone” before last year that it “completely fell over” when the pandemic struck.
Source: The Guardian
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