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UK Government Could Be Facing Decades-Long COVID-Linked Financial Risks, Lawmakers Say

© Henry NichollsFILE PHOTO: The City of London financial district in Britain, March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The City of London financial district in Britain, March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.07.2021
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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The UK government could be facing decades-long financial risks linked to its quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers said in a report published on 25 July.
 
"The COVID-19 response means government will be exposed to significant financial risks for decades to come," a report published by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts said.
While the pandemic warranted flexibility on spending decisions, the government's quick response to the pandemic has taken a toll on a number of government departments and schemes, and the consequences may have to be managed for years to come, the report said.
A sculpture on Debenhams' building is seen amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Britain December 1, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.12.2020
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The report cites one such example of those decisions as the 10,000 shipping containers of personal protective equipment that were ordered earlier on in the pandemic and had not been unpacked as of May.
A companion report released by the Committee mentions that the Department of Health and Social Care ordered 32 billion of personal protective equipment items amounting to around £15 billion (around $20.6 billion). As of 7 June, 6.8% of the items did not pass the initial quality assurance for use in medical settings, which is five times higher than the number provided to the Committee in January. Storing the items costs the department around £6.7 million a week.
The government was also criticised by the lawmakers on failing to publish "full cost-benefit analyses or the data and statistics that it cites as evidence for key policy decisions" meaning that it risks undermining public trust and accountability for the pandemic response.
Lawmakers recommended that the Treasury develop a "single cross-government framework for monitoring and managing the risks to public finances stemming from government's COVID-19 response." The lawmakers have also asked the finance ministry to explain in the Autumn Spending Review how it plans to manage these risks.
In addition, the Committee also mentioned that the "government’s ability to make well-informed decisions and address issues as they arise during the pandemic has been hampered by slow progress in addressing longstanding issues with data and legacy IT." The lawmakers asked the Treasury to report back with a solution by 31 October.
 
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