July 28, 2021

Criticism of the Federal Audit Office: bought way too many protective masks

Status: 06/17/2021 1:17 a.m.

The Court of Audit criticizes that Health Minister Spahn bought more corona masks than necessary. The “massive over-procurement” cost almost seven billion euros, says the report.

From Markus Grill,
NDR / WDR

The Federal Audit Office has sent its second report on the federal government’s corona expenditure to the Bundestag. After criticizing in the first report the distribution of masks to pharmacists and the billions of lump sums for hospitals, the Court of Auditors checked the procurement of masks by Health Minister Jens Spahn this time. The report lies Ed, WDR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung”.

75 million FFP2 masks, 200 million surgical masks

In essence, the examiners criticize that the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) bought far too many FFP2 masks and surgical masks in spring 2020 at a time when these were particularly expensive worldwide.

Although the BMG initially identified an urgent three-month requirement of 75 million FFP2 masks and 200 million surgical masks, which should be given to the clinics and medical practices, the ministry distributed so many procurement orders that in the end 5.8 Billions of masks were delivered to the federal government.

“Massive Over-Procurement”

According to the auditors, this amount was a “massive over-procurement”, which the ministry was unable to justify in a comprehensible manner. The “presented calculations” from the Ministry of Health were based “on irrelevant and unrealistic assumptions”.

The high number would only be reached if the federal government were to procure protective masks from federal funds for all employees in hospitals and medical practices and also all employees in other facilities in the health and social sector for one year.

Court of Auditors criticizes volume control

The problem was that, in the opinion of the Court of Auditors, the Ministry of Health “did not have a procedure for systematic quantity control” and suddenly it was procuring masks through a wide variety of procurement channels.

So it first asked the federal procurement offices to get the masks, then the ministry bought it from suppliers on its own. It later hired logistics companies to buy goods in China. Finally, there was also a so-called open house procedure, which offered all suppliers the option of delivering any number of FFP2 masks to the federal government at a fixed price of EUR 4.50 each.

733 orders worth 6.4 billion euros

A budget of 500 million euros was initially earmarked for the last-mentioned open house process. But just ten days after the start of the procedure, the federal government awarded suppliers 733 awards with a volume of more than 6.4 billion euros. However, not all of them delivered in the end, so that the costs were just under a billion euros. “The contracted procurement quantities exceeded the delivery quantities to the federal states, associations of statutory health insurance physicians and federal authorities many times over,” says the report.

The result is that the covenant is still sitting on a gigantic amount of masks. The Ministry of Health’s inventory on April 1, 2021 was around one billion FFP2 masks and 1.4 billion surgical masks. There are also legal disputes about “large parts” of these masks because they allegedly did not pass quality tests.

For external consultants, lawyers, transport, storage and quality control alone, the federal government will have to raise a further 320 million euros in 2020 and 2021.

An average of 2.31 euros per mask

As early as May 2020, more than a third of the federal states and associations of statutory health insurance physicians asked the Ministry of Health to stop deliveries. It was only then that the federal government apparently realized “that the federal states had unexpectedly also procured personal protective equipment themselves and therefore only wanted to purchase small quantities.”

On average, the BMG paid 2.31 euros for an FFP2 mask. The most expensive was the procurement via the open-house procedure with 4.50 euros and the direct procurement by the ministry itself from individual companies, which caused costs of 3.39 euros per mask.

“Inadequate record keeping” in the Ministry of Health

The Court of Auditors acknowledges that the Ministry of Health, with great dedication, took care of the procurement of masks in the spring of 2020 in the shortest possible time and thus made a “significant contribution to acute crisis management”.

However, such a procedure in the crisis places all the more stringent demands on quantity control, “which, according to the findings of the Federal Audit Office, was largely absent”. In addition, there is an “inadequate record keeping” in the Ministry of Health, which means that the examination of the masks “has not yet been completed”.