Response to concerns about the Ministry of Health's procurement for Covid-19 saliva testing services

Concerns were raised with us regarding the Ministry of Health’s procurement of Covid-19 saliva testing services. Those concerns were broad and included:

  • the Ministry’s decision not to appoint an external probity auditor to support the procurement;
  • the Ministry’s management of probity during the procurement;
  • the Ministry’s choice of members for its procurement panel and management of conflicts of interest;
  • the communication provided to tenderers throughout the procurement process, particularly regarding delays;
  • the possibility of a pre-determined procurement outcome;
  • the provider the Ministry selected to deliver saliva testing, and the delays in announcing this;
  • the slow pace at which saliva testing was procured as part of the public health response; and
  • the slow pace at which saliva testing is being implemented despite the urgency surrounding the procurement.

We met with Ministry staff and sought information about aspects of the procurement so we could understand how it was managed and how final decisions were made. Having reviewed information from the Ministry, we consider further inquiry is not warranted at this time. However, we have identified concerns about aspects of how this procurement was managed that we outline in a letter to the Ministry. 

The Rt Hon Winston Peters also wrote to us about the procurement and we have replied to him about the points raised in his letter.