Since its emergence in late 2019, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a global pandemic that is impacting on human health and national economies. From February 2020, the Australian Government introduced a range of policies and measures to respond to COVID-19.

The National Medical Stockpile (NMS) is a reserve of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, antidotes and personal protective equipment (PPE) for use during a national response to a public health emergency that could arise from natural causes or terrorist activities. Between 3 March and 1 May 2020 $3.23 billion in funding was provided to the Australian Government Department of Health (Health) to procure medical supplies, namely PPE and medical equipment, for the NMS.

This audit is one of five performance audits conducted under phase one of the ANAO’s multi-year strategy that focuses on the effective, efficient, economical and ethical delivery of the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the second of two performance audits focused on the NMS. The audit examined whether COVID-19 procurements to increase the NMS were consistent with the proper use and management of public resources and whether COVID-19 deployments of the NMS were effective.

Key findings:

  • Procurement processes for the COVID-19 NMS procurements were largely consistent with the proper use and management of public resources. Inconsistent due diligence checks of suppliers impacted on procurement effectiveness and record keeping could have been improved.
  • In the absence of risk-based planning and systems that sufficiently considered the likely ways in which the NMS would be needed during a pandemic, Health adapted its processes during the COVID-19 emergency to deploy NMS supplies. Large quantities of PPE were deployed to eligible recipients. Due to a lack of performance measures, targets and data, the effectiveness of COVID-19 NMS deployments cannot be established.


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Auditor-General Report No.39 2020–21