We're paying companies millions to roll out COVID vaccines. But we're not getting enough bang for our buck
4 min read
Expensive, opaque and in duplicate. Why company contracts to help the COVID vaccine rollout are such a concern.
How we roll out vaccines is recognised as more important to the success of vaccination programs than how well a vaccine works. And the "last mile" of distribution to get vaccine into people's arms is the most difficult. The Morrison government, confronted with a public service ill-prepared for big challenges and with no expertise in rolling out vaccines nationally, has contracted out many aspects of the COVID vaccine rollout to a range of for-profit companies. These include strategies and planning, vaccine distribution, delivery of vaccination programs in aged care, and systems meant to monitor these activities. To date, vaccine rollout efforts have been clearly inadequate. Government planning has not involved all the possible players and there was no attempt to involve the states and territories in a concerted national effort. Companies have been contracted to give overlapping advice and to provide services where that expertise already exists. The lack of transparency about how some of these contracts were awarded is also an issue, along with whether the expenditure of taxpayers' dollars is delivering value and the needed outcomes. Calling in the consultants From late 2020, the federal government engaged a raft of consultancies to provide advice on the vaccine rollout. Companies PwC and Accenture were contracted as lead consultants. PwC was described as a "program delivery partner". It was engaged to oversee "the operation, and coordinate activities of several actors working on specific functional areas, including — for instance — logistics partners DHL and Linfox". In other words, PwC was contracted to oversee other contractors. Accenture was engaged as the primary digital and data contractor to develop a software solution to track and monitor vaccine doses. This included receipt of vaccines by health services, vaccination of patients and monitoring adverse reactions. It received at least A$7.8 million for this work. It is not known if any of these…