Ministry of Health can’t account for 5,1 billion euros of 2020 budget
The 2020 report for the Ministry of Health’s outgoing costs in 2020 has revealed that, while billions were spent on attempting to combat and control the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands, 5,1 billion euros cannot be accounted for.
Ministry of Health can't confirm coronavirus puchases
Every year, the Court of Audit (Algemeene Rekenkamer) assesses the spending of government bodies, examining how the budget was used and whether the money was spent according to the rules. In the past, the Court of Audit has found several errors when it came to the Ministry of Health’s annual accounts, and this year is no different.
The Court found that billions was spent on medical supplies for which the Dutch government never received a receipt. For example, last year over 1,2 billion euros were spent on respirators and protective equipment that was likely delivered directly to Dutch hospitals, but the Ministry has no confirmation of this. The Ministry also spent one billion on coronavirus tests, but it is unknown how many tests were actually delivered.
Hugo de Jonge defends ministry: "You had to buy what you could"
In their report, the audit office concluded that the ministry’s financial management of the coronavirus crisis was “seriously inadequate,” but acknowledged the “major impact” the pandemic had had on the Ministry of Health and the pressure it had placed upon the Dutch government.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge acknowledged the mistakes, but said the unprecedented circumstances meant many were rushing to acquire whatever they could in order to help the Dutch healthcare system. “You had to buy what you could,” De Jonge said. “There had to be protection, breathing equipment and testing capacity. And not in six weeks, but tomorrow. ”
The Ministry of Health provided the Court of Audit with an improvement plan earlier this month, as De Jonge outlined that more would be spent on improving the financial management of the ministry. The audit office approved the 2020 accounts, but noted significant criticism and will be keeping a close eye on the ministry in the future.