Ottawa keeps cover on company names and dollar amounts in some COVID-19 contracts

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Federal Liberals have awarded companies more than $ 5.8 billion in pandemic-related contracts for personal protective equipment and medical supplies.The latest figures provided by the government also show that about two-fifths of the total contracts awarded as of July 16 went to domestic suppliers, with some of them having reorganized operations to provide the necessary masks, gowns, gloves and ventilators. .

Many details of the companies involved and the amounts of their contracts are kept out of the public eye.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the data on N95 respirator masks, where all but one vendor had their identities hidden.

The one identified, AMD Medicom Inc., which has a facility in the Montreal area, has not published the value of its contract.

Fierce global competition

Public Services and Procurement Canada’s updated page on its COVID-19 response efforts says government must keep details private to protect Ottawa’s ability to obtain certain items that countries around the world are scrambling to purchase .

The government has received about two-thirds of the 56 million face shields and 396 million surgical masks ordered, while just over half of the 20.6 million liters of hand sanitizer also arrived, according to the data published with contractual information.

Efforts in other areas are not moving as quickly. Only 16% of the estimated 1.16 billion pairs of gloves arrived and 8% of the three million non-medical face coverings were received.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand listens to a question during a press conference in Ottawa, April 16. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

The government ordered 40,547 ventilators and received just under 1% at 409. As for N95 ventilators, a third of the 154.5 million have been delivered.

However, not all of the ordered supplies were supposed to arrive immediately, or even intended to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Figures include products scheduled for delivery in March 2021.

“We have pursued an aggressive purchasing strategy and are diversifying our supply chains to meet immediate demands for PPE and prepare for future needs, including a possible second wave,” said Minister of Purchasing Anita Anand in a press release.

‘Fairly volatile’

The deputy minister of the department, Bill Matthews, told a House of Commons committee late last month that the national sources of N95 masks are expected to go online later this month or early September.

Until then, the risk of losing much needed supplies was high, he said.

“Where we still depend on sourcing from overseas, we carefully keep information from our suppliers to ensure that we have access to this supply chain on an ongoing basis if we need it,” he said. he declared on July 23.

Likewise, the total value of some contracts was not validated when the ordered quantities had already been validated, but the unit cost was still subject to negotiation.

Matthews told the government operations committee how the prices of products such as face shields are expected to drop as supply tensions ease, but others are expected to rise – notably gloves, where the price is “pretty good.” volatile”.

He also mentioned that his department was looking for additional storage space for the Public Health Agency of Canada as an indicator of overall efforts.

Meanwhile, a contingency reserve meant to be a safety net for provinces, territories and essential industries with urgent protective equipment needs was scheduled to begin operations on Monday.

The reserve will operate on a cost recovery basis for organizations, but free of charge for provinces and territories under the “safe restart” agreement reached last month.

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