COVID-19 and procurement: When it rains, it pours

If #ventilatorgate was not enough of a procurement problem for the Government, the New York Times published an article last week about the purchase of COVID-19 tests that do not work. These are the famous antibodies tests which would 'soon' be in our hands a few weeks ago.

The piece is scathing and focus on the decision by the Government to pay USD$20M up front for tests it didn't know worked or not. In this particular instance I have more sympathy for the Government.

Whether we like it or not, this is a seller's market so potential buyers have to bend over backwards to meet the seller requirements. And since antibodies tests are brand new, there is no real way to use regular procurement avenues to do this or an expectation the Government should have behaved differently. Mistakes happen and in a crisis, this is the kind of reasonable mistake to expect (at least based on the information available).

Having said this, once more I would like to see some transparency from the Government. This is yet another contract which is not public and the Government has since gone quiet on it since March. There is an obvious question in my mind: What safeguards (if any) were included in the contract in case the tests did not work as supposed?