Ministers accused of wasting public money over 'failed' test and trace system

A Black Country MP has accused ministers of wasting taxpayers money on test and trace after a scathing report said the system had failed to break the chains of Covid transmission.

Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of MPs said the £37 billion programme had resulted in "muddled" outcomes and that some of its goals had been "overstated or not achieved".

The report said test and trace had failed to achieve its "main objective" of reducing the spread of the virus by breaking the chains of transmission.

Shadow City Minister Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East, said the report's findings were "shocking".

He said the "eye-watering" amount of money spent on the programme was the equivalent of one fifth of the whole NHS budget, and that "huge sums" spent on consultants had not improved its performance.

"Stewardship of public money is a key responsibility of Government and for this programme, ministers have failed the test of ensuring the money allocated produced good value for money for the taxpayer," Mr McFadden said.

"Families are facing a real cost of living crisis and need help from the Government, yet this report reveals huge levels of waste.

"It’s really important that Government expenditure is properly managed and produces good result for the taxpayer."

In the report, MPs said that the programme's "continued over-reliance on consultants is likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds".

It said test and trace had focused on getting programmes up and running and "paid less attention to ensuring these programmes delivered the benefits they promised".

Dame Meg Hillier, PAC chair, said: "For this huge amount of money we need to see a legacy system ready to deliver when needed but it's just not clear what there will be to show in the long term.

"This legacy has to be a focus for the government if we are to see any value for the money spent."

A government spokesperson said: "We have built a testing network from scratch that can process millions of tests a day – more than any European country – providing a free LFD or PCR test to anybody who needs one.

"The new UK Health Security Agency will consolidate the knowledge that now exists across our health system to help us tackle future pandemics and threats."

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