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A Maryland audit allows the purchase of 500K virus tests

ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s administration failed to comply with public procurement regulations when it purchased 500,000 COVID-19 tests from a South Korean company last year, the first test group to be later replaced by $ 2.5 million. The additional value of the dollar has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Maryland’s secret purchase was initially widely publicized last spring when the entire state tried to secure tests, but state lawmakers began asking questions about the secret transaction and later demanded an audit.

Eventually, about $ 12 million was paid for the LabGenomics tests’s statutory flight delivery, but those funds were not secured by formal written contracts or agreements that contained any provisions required by state regulations.

“The lack of a comprehensive written agreement precluded effective monitoring,” wrote Legislative Auditor Gregory Hook. “We were also not provided with a comprehensive written documentation of the extent to which other vendors or specific parties involved in the selection of LabGenomics: were selected.”

According to the audit, a review of the available records shows that the state does not ensure that the tests received on April 18 and April 22 last year were approved by the FDA before they were shipped by LabGenomics.

In response to the audit, the Maryland State Department of Public Services’s chief of staff wrote that an emergency use permit with the FDA was expected at the time the tests were purchased.

“The unprecedented nature of the state of emergency required the adaptation of existing practice to ensure that Maryland was able to meet the needs of this state of emergency; it is not restrained by a practice that has never been so remarkably tested,” wrote Chief of Staff Eric Lombo. For Thomas Andrews, DGS և Chief of Staff.

Lombo և Andrews added that they believe the auditors’ review was conducted to give the impression that the Maryland State Assembly’s Legislative Audit Office has prepared an “urgent” policy-driven report that assumes dubious conclusions that have not been taken into account. the real circumstances of the topics. review. “

But lawmakers who have been critical of the deal and the lack of transparency say the audit confirmed that they have cause for concern.

“As the state accelerated the process, failed to sign a written agreement, taxpayers were not only left to catch $ 2.5 million to exchange the initial set of tests for new tests that could be used, but this led to months of delays that could actually be human.” “It’s worth living,” said Sen. Clarence Lam.

The state senator also noted that the review raised questions about the reliability of the first batch of tests.

Republican Hogan originally announced the first public procurement press conference on lawns at the governor’s residence as states struggled to find tests. Hogan, a Korean-born woman named Yum, has been instrumental in testing the tests.

But time passed without the use of tests, legislators began to ask questions and demand an audit. After the administration tacitly stated that the state should spend $ 2.5 million to replace the initial set of tests, lawmakers criticized the lack of transparency in the process. The state paid $ 9 million for the first batch.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Democrat who questioned procurement, cited the results of an audit of two government employees who were fired after they raised concerns about tests. Although supervisors told auditors that one of the layoffs was due solely to non-performance issues, the audit said that this was not substantiated by written documentation from the staff.

“All in all, it smells like the sky high,” Pinsky said.

Pinsky also noted the auditors’ conclusion that there was no reason not to cancel the $ 464,369 flight for the first test, when the second test was for $ 14,265.

Hogan appeared in the photos with the first lady on the asphalt of a Korean Airlines plane that made its first tests at Baltimore / Washington International Turgud Marshall International Airport.

“It’s unbelievable that we spent $ 464,000 to get him photographed at the airport,” Pinsky said.

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