Thursday 29 September 2022

Fast-test event experiment foundation is ‘not transparent’ over budget: FTM

The Keukenhof tulip gardens were open last weekend

The way the Dutch government is spending millions of euros on experiments with fast tests and events is ‘extremely unusual, not transparent and unsupervised,’ website Follow the Money said on Tuesday.

In addition, the contract for the project was awarded to a foundation without being put out to public tender, as required by law, FTM said.

The contract was given to a new foundation – Open Nederland – which is led by former armed forces chief Tom Middendorp. In total, the foundation has a budget of €925m to run experiments throughout the year – of which €195m is the budget up to August.

However, FTM says that is unclear how the foundation’s spending will be monitored, and it does not have a supervisory board.

‘To sum it up, Middendorp and two consultants have free rein to implement an enormous public contract privately,’ journalist Eelke van Ark told Radio 1 news.

Accountant

Middendorp says the foundation is non-profit, fully accountable and has a clear contract with the government. ‘We have also brought in an external accountant to control the books,’ he said.

The aim of the foundation is to help open up society by aiding people with a negative coronavirus test to visit a museum, zoo or amusement park, and hundreds of events are taking place this month. Visitors pay the regular ticket price but the cost of the test is picked up by the state.

The foundation has opted to use a private company, Baarn-based Lead Healthcare, to carry out the tests, but according to FTM that contract should have been put out to public tender. So far, government officials have declined to say what the contract price of a fast test is.

Trouw reported on Tuesday that 20 other private testing companies have now started legal action against Open Nederland, accusing it of unfair competition. They also say the company does not have national coverage so, for example, there is no fast test location in Drenthe.

Middendorp said Lead Healthcare has the April contract which was not put out to tender because it is relatively small. More companies are being invited to apply to set up massive test centres and to run a helpdesk, he said. By May, fast testing will be ramped up to 400,000 per day.

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