We’re paying companies millions to roll out COVID vaccines. But we’re not getting enough bang for our buck

The Conversation

July 22, 2021 6.13am AEST


  1. Lesley RussellAdjunct Associate Professor, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney

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Lesley Russell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


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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.

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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 products were delivered or are in use.

Read more: Is the COVID vaccine rollout the greatest public policy failure in recent Australian history?

McKinsey received a two-month contract worth A$3 million to work with the health department on vaccine issues; EY was contracted for A$557,000 last November to deliver a “2020 Influenza Evaluation and Covid Vaccine System Readiness Review”. Later there was a A$1 million contract to assess vaccine system readiness and provide advice on on-shore manufacturing.

Despite all this “expert” — and expensive — advice, the vaccination rollout has become a shambles and is far behind schedule. So the military (Lieutenant General John Frewen) has been called in to take “operational control of the rollout and the messaging around the rollout”.

Let’s look at distribution and logistics

Last December health minister Greg Hunt announced the government had signed contracts with DHL and Linfox for vaccine distribution and logistics.

The value of the contracts remains undisclosed. However, the 2021-22 federal budget provides almost A$234 million for vaccine distribution, cold storage and purchase of consumables.

Read more: Australia has not learned the lessons of its bungled COVID vaccine rollout

The decision for these companies to be involved in vaccine distribution shocked many in the pharmaceutical supply industry. The government already has a well-established mechanism to supply pharmaceutical products to the most remote areas. It already does this via pharmacies and other outlets as part of the community service obligation funded under the Community Pharmacy Agreement.

This supply network, for which the government pays A$200 million per year, involves a small number of pharmaceutical wholesalers with decades of experience in delivering to pharmacies. In remote areas, the network also delivers to medical services and doctors’ offices. It’s the same network used every year to deliver flu vaccines.

Pharmaceutical wholesalers offered their expertise. But the government did not approach them to undertake this work. The federal government also ignored the capabilities of state hospital systems, which routinely deliver time-sensitive items such as radioisotopes and blood products.

Read more: Vaccines are here, but how will we get them to billions of people?

More contracts, this time for vaccination programs

The federal government took on responsibility for vaccinating people in aged and disability care, and GP respiratory clinics. It has contracts totalling A$155.9 million with Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, Sonic Healthcare and International SOS to deliver these services.

Despite the fact these companies were selected in January, planning has been abysmal.

Only now have most residents in aged care facilities been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile many workers in these facilities and people receiving and delivering care in the community are yet to receive a jab.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1417356103340355592&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Ftheconversation.com%2Fwere-paying-companies-millions-to-roll-out-covid-vaccines-but-were-not-getting-enough-bang-for-our-buck-164550&sessionId=74cbc0f0f11b0ec9a7be66bb93321b1960e2b907&siteScreenName=ConversationEDU&theme=light&widgetsVersion=fcb1942%3A1632982954711&width=550px

The health department has not made these contracts public, citing “commercial-in-confidence” issues. There has been confusion about what the contracts covered and concern the firms involved are significant Liberal Party donors.

There have been widespread logistical problems with juggling vaccine deliveries, having the workforce available to do vaccinations, and demand. Poor planning has led to cancelled vaccinations in aged care and thousands of doses thrown away in one clinic after problems with temperature-controlled storage.

Read more: The government is spending almost A$24m to convince us to accept a COVID vaccine. But will its new campaign actually work?

Where to next?

The key task now is to get all Australians vaccinated.

This will require a competent, reliable and integrated system operating at full efficiency. Those aspects of the system that are the responsibility of the federal government (or its contractors) must be better coordinated with the efforts of the states and territories, GPs and others involved in the vaccination rollout. That should be a key responsibility of Lieutenant General Frewen.

The effort to get more Australians vaccinated requires the public having trust in the system that will get us there and the communications that accompany that.

We have no way of knowing what advice the government has received and indeed, whether that advice was implemented. For-profit companies have been contracted to perform vital services, but we do not know at what cost to taxpayers and whether key performance indicators are being met — or even if they exist.

Openness and transparency are the pillars on which trust in government is built. Currently they are sadly lacking.

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Comments are open for 72 hours but may be closed early if there is a high risk of comments breaching our standards.

  1. J BaldwinConsidering there are already in place systems to deliver vaccines it would appear there was no need to reinvent the wheel.More importantly I feel vaccines should have been ordered in early 2020.Without supply it is impossible to vaccinate the adult population.No doubt there will be a royal commission into the handling of the Covid19 situation.Report
    1. Glenda BunningIn reply to J BaldwinAnother waste of public money. When has a royal commission fixed a problem?How could a destroyed public service deliver anything much and the contractors and government are more interested in the deal and getting at the money than in actually providing anything.They do it because we let them.Report
      1. J BaldwinIn reply to Glenda BunningI think the Bank and Age Care inquiries have highlighted problems.In the main a Royal Commission is only as good as it’s terms of reference.In this case it would appear companies with no expertise in the distribution of medical supplies perhaps has to be questioned.As to the role of PwC i have no idea.Report
        1. Amkh Jogrlogged in via GoogleIn reply to J BaldwinThe wheel was “re-invented” bin order to divert control from the states.Each state is more than capable of utilising it’s resources to set up clinics administer the vaccines.It was the Federal decision to by-pass the states and put the responsibilities to local GP’s (who are NOT “set up” to handle such a programme).The correct practice would have been the feds simply source the vaccine and then pass it on for the states to administer it (using their own systems).Most GP’s will have little or no more knowledge of this that the average punter – and will have far less experience in administering “injections” than many nurse practitioners.The whole dog’s breakfast was set up (yet again) on ideological lines….. playing politics with the lives of the vulnerable.(ironic – as most of the dead are from the demographic that was easily fooled by the “franked credits” scam – and put these criminals in power)Report
          1. Jen NortonIn reply to Amkh JogrNot to mention the time constraints. In most regions there would already be a waiting period to see a GP.Adding the work of administering vaccines to GP clinics was surely a bad idea from the start.Report
            1. J BaldwinIn reply to Jen NortonGood morning Jen.For instance considering the GP’s have to manually enter each notice on vaccination into the Medicare system it is a large waste of time and should have used a swipe of the Medicare card to do this.Doing a manual typing in details will result in mistakes.It took weeks to get my proof of vaccination details done because of the 1900 method instead of just swiping the card.Report
              1. Maggie Robertslogged in via FacebookIn reply to Glenda BunningGood reply Glenda🤓. There have been numerous Royal Commissions recently, most notably the one into Age Care. But what has eventuated? Nothing! Since Abbott got rid of 6000 public servants Australia has been left unsupported. We urgently need an honest unbiased efficient ICAC.Report
                1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Maggie RobertsI agree. A federal ICAC is long overdue.Report
                  1. Colin MacGillivrayIn reply to Amkh Jogr“It was the Federal decision to by-pass the states and put the responsibilities to local GP’s (who are NOT “set up” to handle such a programme).“That was exactly the wrong thing to do.Sarawak has done the job with no consultants I think, 77% one dose 43% both doses – it’s in the paper every day. The target is 70,000 shots a day. Our population is 3 million and we are the size of England. A few long houses are only accessible by river.You can get a jab everywhere – the big shopping centres now have them. The main places are stadiums and the Convention Centre. Thiose with comorbidities go to the Genral Hospital or a few nominated GPsFree jabs for all, unregistered foreign workers (who walk in from Kalimantan included and over 70s retirees like me.Report
                    1. Jock WebbAspen are certainly beloved of the government for reasons that are certainly not related to skill. They botched their first gig in Qld. DHL I have had personal experience of at a local level and useless would be my word. PWC have cost us a fortune by advising companies on tax dodging and we pay them more? I would say 10 years ago there would have been health bureaucrats well able to take this on, but the public servants with high skills have been replaced by flunkies or let go.Report
                      1. Phil DavidsonWhen I first learned of the nature of these vaccines I understood they had to be transported at -80C A fellow commentator set me right and shared the information that -80C was the long term storage temperature. Pfizer had also developed transport cases that could be topped up with dry ice to maintain -80 for days. They could then be defrosted and stored at a much higher temperature similar to a standard pharmacy/clinic fridge used for other temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals and in that state had a shelf life of 5 days. But -80 became a big drama and specialists were needed to transport the vaccines…..when in fact existing mechanisms would have worked just as well. For example I believe 15 million of so flu vaccines are delivered to pharmacies, clinics etc most years in quite a short timeframe without too much drama.Report
                        1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Phil DavidsonVery interesting and contradicts Hunt’s claim (last week I think) that Pfizer has only very recently developed the capacity to provide the storage you have outlined. Thanks Phil.Report
                          1. Luke WilliamsIn reply to Sandra CochraneThis storage solution is nothing new, unless I am missing something? The same can be achieved by throwing a case of vaccine filled syringes into an esky and covering them with dry ice. This is routinely done in labs. Maybe Hunt is trying to find excuses for his inability to handle the roll out?Also, since May the shelf life of the Pfizer vaccine has been extended from 5 days to 31 days: https://www.tga.gov.au/behind-news/tga-approves-more-flexible-storage-conditions-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccineReport
                            1. Luke WilliamsIn reply to Luke Williams** case of vaccine filled vials, not syringes.Report
                              1. Wal MuhlederIn reply to Phil DavidsonWhat we are talking about her is an experimental mRNA vaccine authorised for emergency use. Out of caution the Pfizer vaccine was recommended to be stored at a very low temperature. That made storage and distribution of it difficult. Places like doctors surgeries and pharmacies and remote locations didn’t have the cold storage facilities required. Usual distribution channels to them could not transport it. It was necessary to employ people who could.But as more testing was done, and knowledge was built up from its use, that very low temperature requirement was revised upwards.Report
                                1. Phil DavidsonIn reply to Wal MuhlederWal – my information comes from when Pfizer was originally rolled out in the US – so before we started. It’s interesting how this myth of how tricky low temperature distribution and storage has taken hold and was used to justify the complexity of the distribution. Certainly we needed ultra low temperature storage at distribution hubs – probably at a State level. But the requirements once released into the system were not that onerous.I validated the information on the Pfizer web site that had a very detailed technical description of how vaccines would be packed, distributed, stored (they can be stored for 30 days in the shipping packs with added dry ice), defrosted, then kept fresh for use in clinic fridges (2-8 degrees) for 5 days. So in total they can be stored for 35 days without a super cold deep freezeThe system included special packages to ship vaccine at -70C, packages which were designed to be topped up with dry ice to maintain their temperature (these are the same ones you see unloaded from DHL aircraft in Australia – they are made by DHL and branded). Each pack has GPS enabled thermal probes, data loggers and trackers which report the temperature profile of each container as they are shipped to ensure QC. Australia did revise its guidelines in early April to allow storage for 2 weeks at -15 to -25.Here is the link to Pfizer guidelines – it’s the one I originally read.https://www.pfizer.com/news/hot-topics/covid_19_vaccine_u_s_distribution_fact_sheetRead moreReport
                                  1. Phil DavidsonIn reply to Sandra CochraneSandra – as Luke says it’s nothing new – the link I provided to Wal is from Pfizer dated November last year.Report
                                  2. Cormac Ó Síocháinlogged in via Facebook“Openness and transparency are the pillars on which trust in government is built. Currently they are sadly lacking.”Lesley, how do we change the system so that transparency and accountability become part of it?Report
                                    1. Stephen LakeIn reply to Cormac Ó SíocháinPerhaps the first problem would be finding people in public office who both themselves want to be transparent and accountable, whose power does not corrupt or lend them a sense of entitlement, and who will then use the powers of office entrusted to them to ensure that the entire business community should likewise be compelled to be transparent and accountable? Do we even know anymore what transparency and accountability are, or are we only defining them in terms of what is missing?Report
                                      1. Maureen McInroyIn reply to Cormac Ó SíocháinI think a good place to start would be with those commercial-in-confidence agreements as they simply provide a shield for governments paying absurd amounts of money to mates.Report
                                        1. Watashi-wa SugoiIn reply to Cormac Ó SíocháinLesley, how do we change the system so that transparency and accountability become part of it?Ask your grandparents, Cormac.Report
                                        2. Stephen LakeThis is part of a much larger and long-standing problem, and the ostensible rationales that underpin the concept of privatisation per se, as well as what amounts to a questioning of expertise and, if it exists, who has it and who doesn’t. The reality of privatisation is that it does not function even according to its own principles, insofar as it still depends upon, or is anxious to screw, billions out of the public purse instead of fully funding itself and ensuring through the notion of competition that it both keeps things affordable and maintains excellence – neither of which are true. Properly understood, privatisation should not cost the taxpayer a penny. So why does it? The notion of consultancies looked good on paper, but they essentially did what companies themselves did previously, and at a fraction of the cost. Consultancies often have no expertise in the sectors they are invited to consult on, which means that they – and many business managers – do not properly understand what they are advising on, miss essential aspects of enterprises, and do not at the end of the day make anything better – and all for the modest sum of millions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere. It appears to be inherent in neoliberalism that the entire principle of expertise is being thrown out the window, which may help to explain the growing under-valuing of expertise, mistrust in it, anti-intellectualism and many other phenomena of culture and society today. And besides all of that, we are no longer really educating experts anymore anyway, insofar as the corporatisation of our universities has so drastically reduced our quality and standards, in order to divert more money away from the business at hand and into private pockets. No service delivery that operates for profit manages to combine a limited and acceptable profit margin while delivering best possible service. It was arguably the most advantageous element of the lot that government, or public, service delivery was not operating to make a profit but to provide a service, and in many instances they did a far better job than anything this country has known for the past 30 years. Operating for profit means that you invest the minimum amount of money possible to create an illusion of efficiency while guaranteeing inefficiency – as has also occurred in numerous other areas in this country, including in our universities – because you don’t spend what it takes to employ and maintain the best possible and most qualified workforce. You operate on the pink batts model, or the NBN model, or the age discrimination model that excludes anybody too old and with too much experience in favour of the young and dumb (no offence intended), or our energy sector, or infrastructure projects that drag things out as long as possible so that you have an indefinite guaranteed piggy bank while doing things so badly that they have to be done all over again, which keeps you in work for even longer. There is simply no case to justify the conduct of any outsourcing, privatisation or waste of taxpayer money on service delivery for anything in Australia, and there never has been. Added to this comes the government’s self-interest of keeping the business community happy so that it will support the government, rather than government actually governing in the best interests of the people and then standing for election on the basis of a solid track record, instead of corrupting democracy. And that, also at a high cost to the taxpayer.Read moreReport
                                          1. Brandon YoungIn reply to Stephen LakeThere is simply no case to justify the conduct of any outsourcing, privatisation or waste of taxpayer money on service delivery for anything in Australia, and there never has been.Private sector debt. The one and only goal of the federal LNP government is to maximise the growth of private sector debt.The financial system becomes unstable if there is not enough new demand for private debt. It sounds insane, that we would allow a banking system that absolutely depends on perpetual exponential growth of debt just to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the financial system and the broader economy, but that is exactly what we have done.The federal LNP government is not interested in any public policy unless it serves the goal of driving up demand for private debt.If there are real needs for public policy to change, undeniable needs, then the federal LNP government will ask itself (or paid advisors) “How do we get the private sector to take on enormous amounts of new debt in the process of pretending to serve these needs?”The vaccine rollout has not so much been bungled, it has been coopted, to serve instead the goal of maximising the volume of money and debt that the banking system creates out of thin air. This is the only lens through which the public policy of the federal LNP government makes any sense at all, and which explains why we are being hoodwinked as the article concludes:We have no way of knowing what advice the government has received and indeed, whether that advice was implemented. For-profit companies have been contracted to perform vital services, but we do not know at what cost to taxpayers and whether key performance indicators are being met — or even if they exist.Openness and transparency are the pillars on which trust in government is built. Currently they are sadly lacking.Openness and transparency might lead the public to the truth, the shocking truth, that government is now merely a scam, a puppet show, to distract the punters from the underlying reality that the federal LNP government is an agent of the global financial-corporate system.The federal LNP government only wants to throw lots of public money at the private sector and address the pandemic enough so that the economy can get back to business-as-usual as quickly as possible. The resumption of the growth of private sector debt (at the expense of the real world) is the only thing that really matters here.Read moreReport
                                            1. Mike McEnaneylogged in via GoogleIn reply to Stephen LakeExcellent overview of the privatisation scourge.Report
                                            2. Trevor Kerrlogged in via TwitterNo surprises here, it’s just the way global capitalism operates. Most, or all, of those transactions & contracts are locked up behind the usual disclaimers. Sure, ministerial assent would have been given, but on advice, and those giving that advice will never be interrogated under pain of severe penalty. Look at how a previous director in Health walks large as life, dispensing opinion (and, likely, advice on vaccine contracts behind closed doors) while proudly extolling her virtues as director of a casino where black cash was laundered. We live in strange times. Darkness of deliberate obscurity nurtures secretive collusion that feeds conspiratorial mutterings. Never mind all that, though, 👍👍 is the response from our media overlords. All made to measure for a grateful herd of circus-lovers. Ask no questions, bring on the sport.As for trust, we already know how Govt responds – “You voted for us, trusted us, here we are. If you don’t like it, blame yourselves.” That attitude is corrosive to the core of democratic principles, but the USA with all its checks & balances and legalistic infrastructure couldn’t protect itself from the likes of Trump. We are in the grip of an enlarging crisis.Read moreReport
                                              1. Ron BowdenIn reply to Trevor KerrAll too true, Mr Kerr. Bring on the apocalypse!Report
                                              2. Stephen Saunderslogged in via GoogleI would just like to clarify, none of this is down to Scott Morrison, he was home with an upset tummy that day, and it certainly isn’t his fault.Surely he must have an “Independent In-Confidence Commercial Advisory Board for Vaccine Consultancy Horizons” that can be blamed?Report
                                                1. Watashi-wa SugoiIn reply to Stephen SaundersBelittling your leader like that would get you executed in most parts of the world. You should be grateful you’re in a country led by someone like him.Report
                                                  1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Watashi-wa SugoiThe PM reminded protesting Australian women of that very recently. Unfortunately for our politicians, in a democracy they have to put it up with it. The alternative is to govern competently and accept bouquets instead.Report
                                                  2. Joy RingroseIf anything ever screamed to the Australian public the need fo an effective, retrospective Federal ICAC, it is this shamozzle. It also illustrates the desperate need for Australia to de-politicise the public service and return it to a meritocracy. We are way too far down the path of political corruption, and urgently need to return to transparent, accountable federal governance.Report
                                                    1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Joy RingroseMore and more it appears that the govt does service delivery by rort. We should never have expected it to deliver a vaccination program where and when it was actually needed.Report
                                                      1. Anita SpinksIn reply to Sandra CochraneMore and more it appears that the govt does service delivery by rort.Exactly, Sandra. By rights it should not get one vote and it’s to our shame that voters have had their attention drawn away by divisive issues that have little relevance to our day to day lives. I’d like to lift the voter IQ myself but that’s a hard ask when most gain information through the govt’s propaganda arm.Report
                                                        1. Maureen McInroyIn reply to Sandra CochraneThe problem is, Sandra, that services are not delivered. One of the articles linked to in yesterday’s CT article on the parking station rorts contained this comment:Of the 47 commuter car park sites, construction has been completed on just two sites and started in three more. Just $76.5m of the program’s funding, 12% of the amount committed, has been spent so far.Two projects were cancelled in December 2019 just months after they were announced, one project was later found to be ineligible and four other were cancelled in May 2021.Some 11 projects worth $175m have had no assessment work – meaning “a project proposal had not yet been received from the identified proponent”, the report said.So, of the 47 projects approved prior to the May 2019 election, only two have been completed and three more have been commenced.Report
                                                          1. Enzo FableIn reply to Maureen McInroyIt would be fascinating for a spreadsheet to be created recording $ committed/promised and how much spent – if the information can be extracted from the Government. It seems easy to promise $100s for this and that knowing there is massive underspend planned so that more promises can be made on the back of underspend. It is a form of telling lies perhaps?Report
                                                          2. Jonathan StraussThe government saw a great opportunity to come to the rescue of Australians. However by ignoring the established, well organised and seemingly relatively efficient systems that have delivered a multitude of vaccines for decades, it ignored the risk of failure in developing a new system with an inexperienced workforce. Unfortunately, for us and at the cost to bottom line, it fell flat on it’s face.The cloak and dagger secrecy that has become government modus operandi for all things just keeps growing. It’s origins sheeted home to “operation sovereign borders” the gabble of then minister Morrison,Report
                                                            1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleDespite all this “expert” — and expensive — advice. It’s plain there’s been no expert advice. I want my money back.Fascinating that the pharmacists, generally so powerful and influential, have been locked out of this particular process when they have so much to offer.No wonder we need a bloke with a loud voice, gun, uniform and chest of medals to pull this lot into line! Maybe we should appoint Frewen Speaker of the Reps once he’s clean up this mess.Report
                                                              1. Enzo FableIn reply to Sandra CochraneUnfortunately the image presenting the same messages and language the Minister and Prime Minister want to put out to us all doesn’t change the performance and outcomes required. We are being played. The uniform is supposed to make us feel more confident and trustful of the message because we have lost that all with the Minister and PM. Frewen is doing his job dutifully, he must as a Military man.Report
                                                              2. Scott SmithThe “bang for your buck” argument could apply to the entire federal government. They’ve spent so long outsourcing any responsibilities to either the states or consultants that one really has to ask why they exist at all.The vaccine rollout is just the latest failure – while the states did the heavy lifting Scomo spent most of his time ducking and weaving to avoid any responsibility.Report
                                                                1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleThank-you for such a concise and clear summary, Leslie.Report
                                                                  1. Nell Crowe Ryan“commercial-in-confidence” says it all. This is the wrong government in a pandemic – vax rorts!Report
                                                                    1. janeen harrislogged in via GoogleIn reply to Nell Crowe RyanThe government are forgetting who’s actually employing these consultants. It’s tax payers who are paying them, and they have a right to know how much it’s costing. This roll out has been such a mess, and now I understand why. There’s too many snouts in the trough. A competent public service would do the job, but they’ve been turned into flunkies.Report
                                                                    2. Tiffany MeekLet’s face it, most private sector contractors rub their hands together at the idea of getting a government contract. I think the basic maths behind the tendering process is: Work out how much it will cost to produce, times that amount by 10, add a 20% cushion in case it rains, then times all that by 2 for good luck. After all, the government is made of money yeah? When it comes to timeframes I think the same math applies. The government seems to have been blissfully unaware of this for decades. I’m not sure if this is because they have no idea how much it costs to deliver in the real world, or whether they’re so inefficient that they think these prices sound reasonable.Report
                                                                      1. Peter WestCasual Academic, University of Technology SydneyIn reply to Tiffany MeekI agree. Shocking waste of money like that a idiotic, useless ap that was supposed to be life-saving.It’s a bit like the roadworks going on now in Bondi Junction and Bronte. Making a bike lane we’ve not really seen used except once or twice. And expanding a walk. Employ a large construction team we know well who are “sound” as Sir Humphrey used to say. Give them 6 weeks and let them expand that -again and again…and don’t worry too much if work stops by about 230 or 330 every day, maybe by 2 on Fridays….Four backpackers could do the job in a few weeks.PSWho said Morrison was good at looking after money? How on earth did they get that rep? Scomo is great at sliding away from the facts, avoiding critics, not appearing on any decent talk show, talking to his sly mates, etcReport
                                                                        1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Tiffany MeekWithout transparency or accountability who knows where the money went. Into political party coffers and private tax haven accounts most likely. We’ll never know.Pity is half of Australians now think this is how things are done never realising Australia was a great place simply because it wasn’t how things were done here in the past at all.A strong, stable, fair, welfare state does not happen by chance.Report
                                                                          1. Tiffany MeekIn reply to Peter WestReminds me of a certain 300m stretch of road close to where I live that was ‘under construction’ for such a long time that it became a standing joke around town. Contractors are setting themselves up for life (ie. paying off their homes etc) with one government contract and laughing all the way to the bank. The whole tendering process really needs to be totally overhauled. People who tender amounts that are realistic are not taken seriously because those who quote astronomical sums are perceived as ‘the pros’. Where is the oversight of these projects by people who actually know what they’re doing?Report
                                                                            1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Tiffany MeekThey sacked the people who knew what they were doing.Much easier to cream the top off if nobody knows what is going on.Report
                                                                            2. Mike PulestonThere’s no surer way to push up the cost of public services than to outsource them to the private sector. Everyone knows this. Yet, come election times, voters repeatedly fall for the line “private is better than public”.Report
                                                                              1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Mike PulestonHi Mike, This is fascinating phenomenon. The QLD Neumann govt came to power on the promise of sacking a large number of public servants. I knew public servants who actually voted for him with the certainty that they wouldn’t lose their jobs it was the most astonishing thing (and of course terrible thing for them).Report
                                                                                1. Tiffany MeekIn reply to Mike PulestonDepends on the circumstances. I’ve worked for government and been absolutely gobsmacked by the waste of money that goes on. On the other hand, I’ve also been gobsmacked the tenders submitted by private sector for government contracts – prices that FAR exceed the actual real world costs to deliver. I think it’s more about government employees having no motivation to be efficient because the money just arrives by magic. And private sector taking advantage of governments acceptance of unrealistic, inflated tenders.Report
                                                                                2. Michael AffleckThis is just the Morrison government doing the only thing its good at – making sure its corporate mates make big profits and to hell with any accountability for what they are actually producing of benefit to the Australian people.Report
                                                                                  1. Peter WestCasual Academic, University of Technology SydneyIn reply to Michael AffleckYes indeedReport
                                                                                    1. Jen NortonIn reply to Michael AffleckWhy is this not clearly labelled “Corruption”?Report
                                                                                    2. James CoburgAs on old leftie the superficial tendencies of The Conversation to shoot from the mouth without a thought to the mind stands out. The artticle is quite clear that there are existing effective private sector based means to distrubute vaccines – pharmacies and their distributors are private sector, heavily dependent on public underwriting.Hence the heading ought to be about using the ‘wrong companies’ not the use of companies.Report
                                                                                      1. Enzo FableIn reply to James CoburgIt is more about wrong process than wrong companies James – that’s a red herring.Last year the existing process delivered some 17M flu vaccines without any fuss, all voluntary. This Morrison failure is massive. There can be little doubt Morrison has sought to differentiate Federal and State. If he had succeeded with his venture started at ground zero he would be crowing every day on ABC etc how great he is. It has backfired big time and once again heavily resisting ownership and pointing fingers elsewhere.On top of that he has lost control over timing of the next election for political advantage. The longer the farce goes on the worse it gets for him and the Liberal Party. I’d suggest Sept/Oct was first preference to capitalise on Jobseeker/Jobkeeper before the honeymoon ended – that has bypassed him now with all the fumbling with NSW and Victoria taking the cream off the cake and exposing reality.Will the Liberal Party act on these failures before the next election? I’d suggest it is increasingly possible….Dutton may well be interested?Read moreReport
                                                                                      2. John SneddonOver many years, governments have reduced and emasculated their public services so that expertise (in such things as logistics for example) has been reduced to such a level that they can no longer provide “frank & fearless” advice to the government. This, in turn, means that governments, composed of self-interested ideologues, are susceptible to the influences of equally uninformed and self-interested private interest persons (eg some consultants) who will often not provide relevant advice or support. Governments often need internal advice from public servants who know enough about particular topics to know what they and any external consultants don’t know and can thus advise caution.Report
                                                                                        1. Mike PulestonIn reply to John SneddonAn excellent summation, John. Let us not forget that this has been happening for nigh on 40 years, at federal and state levels, under both Coalition and Labor governments. In fact, it was the Hawke-Keating Labor government that started the rot, through its enthusiastic support for privatisation and deregulation.Report
                                                                                          1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Mike PulestonYes indeed.However both Hawke or Whitlam could have made a speech , even with beer in hand, and had Australians queueing in droves for the jab knowing the vaccine was available. They would have made sure there was enough vaccine.We owned CSL and CSIRO was really something before the Libs destruction.Report
                                                                                            1. Enzo FableIn reply to Mike PulestonAnd today we read that the Morrison Government is likely to not appoint another Human Rights Commissioner – see what is going on here now…? Remove any obstacle by any means to achieve the ideological/political agenda.This can only be a journey down the gurgler….Report
                                                                                              1. James CoburgIn reply to Mike PulestonRemind me when chemists were public officials?Report
                                                                                              2. Chris SaundersThanks Lesley some nice detail on what was already suspected. Existing supply lines tend to work quite smoothly in Australia. One had to assume they were not being used by this government and why the government wasn’t became more and more inexplicable as time and delay went on.Report
                                                                                                1. Tony Simonslogged in via TwitterScotty wanted all the glory and so bypassed the states who have the experise.Report
                                                                                                  1. Enzo FableIn reply to Tony SimonsIt may well be as simple as that Tony. Consider this though – how many jobs have been created? At first glance one might expect a lot however one might also expect not that many and much of this money just hived off into bank accounts of companies/consultants created to ‘do the work’. With the Great Barrier Reef $440M apparently some $80M was drawn quite quickly for Administration costs….Problem is we simply do not know and can’t know. Morrison and Co have determined we don’t need to know even though it is our taxpayer money. Only an election to kick them out can get their snouts out of the trough. They are otherwise unaccountable.One wonders if the Governor General has sent a letter to PM Morrison expressing concern at the rorts uncovered to date?Report
                                                                                                  2. Les JohnstonIt is apparent that the Federal Government was demonstrably incompetent in its management of vaccine delivery. The cost to all Australians for this incompetence is long lasting. It would be good to have the critical analysis of mismanagement and its cost towards lockdowns due to unvaccinated Australians.Report
                                                                                                    1. Enzo FableIn reply to Les JohnstonLets just start at “It is apparent that the Federal Government was demonstrably incompetent …” and leave it at that. No need to get too complex. One might add, however, corrupt?We have already seen a couple of Auditor General reports that provide critical and unbiased analysis of the level of mismanagement. I vote for an open cheque or whatever is needed to be handed over to the Auditor General’s Office to continue their great work asap on behalf of taxpayers who are funding all this corporate welfare.Report
                                                                                                      1. Maggie Robertslogged in via FacebookIn reply to Les JohnstonTo say nothing about the illness and deaths experienced and the virus is now attackingyounger and younger people.Report
                                                                                                      2. Nayland Aldridgelogged in via LinkedInUnlike the State Public Services, by and large the Commonwealth Public Service is not business of service delivery, instead it is geared towards the administration of the buckets of money doles out to the States. The Commonwealth Department of Health is a perfect example of this. Their website states that they “work in awareness and education, consultation and engagement, initiatives and programs, grants and tenders, policy, regulation, compliance and research.” It doesn’t actually own or run any hospitals. Instead of attempting to roll out the Vaccine, the Commonwealth should have procured the Vaccine and then stood back and let the States deliver it.Report
                                                                                                        1. Albert HaranDoes this look familiar?Which brings us to America’s idiocracy in 2021. Our most important public functions are handed over to corporate sponsors. Our entire political system is designed to let corporate money speak, through campaign contributions and corporate lobbying.https://johnmenadue.com/the-idiocracy-of-america/Privatization is greed on speed.Report
                                                                                                          1. Amkh Jogrlogged in via GoogleI propose that an “efficient rollout” was not the aim of the awarded contracts.I suggest that the intention was to funnel public monies into the bank accounts of various firms that would then divert some of those funds to the lib/nat parties as “political donations” or to various third parties (who then use the funds for electoral adverts and the like).… would it be possible that Palmer woudl receive such donations to run another fraudulent scare campaign in Qld?Report
                                                                                                            1. Bas DolkensScoMo likes keeping his mates on side, hence the transfer of public funds into his mates’ accounts. Just another rort to add to the growing list of rorts.Report
                                                                                                              1. Scott PickfordThe fact that the Coalition Government decided to ignore existing supply channels and arrangements is the biggest concern. The changing nature of the COVID virus and the already identified need for future booster vaccines and/or vaccination programs with yet to be developed vaccines mean that this is not once only effort. Therefore Australia needs to build capability and capacity in systems and processes that can be called upon in a repeatable manner. The mechanisms that the Government are using with once-off, secret contracts, private sector profiteering, unknown objectives and questionable outcomes will not deliver the capacity and capability that we need. As with many of the Coalition Government programs, home care, aged care, Barrier Reef, energy, etc, their vision ends at writing a big cheque and grabbing a “record spending” headline.Report
                                                                                                                1. Simon Coxlogged in via GoogleWhat is this ‘commercial-in-confidence’ bullshit? Any expenditure of public funds should be publicly accountable. It should be a condition of doing business with the government that it is not ‘in-confidence’. If you don’t like that, then you can’t take our money.Report
                                                                                                                  1. Graeme HarrisonThe reason the Feds want zero transparency re vaccine strollout is because this would undoubtedly uncover the clear links with offices of Scovid Morrison & Ghunt as to who rebuffed Pfizer in mid-2020, and who made eventual decision to order only 5m doses, to vaccinate only 10% of population.My money is on Hunt being at epicentre of bad decisions, as he obfuscated most, claiming for months that ‘official’ negotiations with Pfizer started only in 2021. People lie most when covering up personal mistakes…Report
                                                                                                                    1. George FinlayOnly when the coverup ends and the detailed information on our vaccination program is released should we accept the recent statements of regret from the government. Without that they are empty words and just the latest example of spin. We’ve had enough spin already. Why is so much information on the vaccination program being kept secret?We know the program has failed and continues to fail. It’s crystal clear from the figures which can’t be hidden that our vaccination program has progressed at a dangerously slow pace. So much so that the Delta variant is now a far greater threat to a low immunity Australia than it is to to all the countries which have higher vaccination rates. That is every other OECD country.But what is being hidden from us is the information which would explain in detail why our vaccination program has failed. Having that in the public domain would help lead to better approaches. However releasing the detailed information currently hidden would also make it very hard for the Morrison government to continue to muddy the waters and spin. It’s wasted so much of its energy doing that rather than focusing on getting vaccination up as fast as possible. It’s outrageous or worse that all this information is not already in the public domain. If it were released it would lead to a far better approach. The Morrison government needs the help of all the experts and all the capable organizations in this country to get this failed vaccination program on the right track. It seems to be relying too much on a secretive highly paid group of private contractors. And the figures clearly show this approach hasn’t worked.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                      1. Shane Thomas O’DonohueThe public service has a culture of contracting out work even though people are in highly paid jobs to do the work eg. I previously employed a Director of marketing and communications in a large public sector super fund. When the appointed person came to me with a marketing strategy to be developed and delivered by an outside consult I told him that was his job and if I needed consultants I would sack him. The look of terror on his face was memorable.Report
                                                                                                                        1. john daviesAnother consequence of the emasculation of what used to be one of the best “public services” in the world. A comment based on 39 years in the system, including a couple of years in the UK “civil service” and visits to half a dozen other countries, including the US, to compare how things were done.Years of cutbacks, so called “efficiency dividends”, sacking staff and replacing them with contractors, putting senior executives on fixed term contracts. Governments of the past twenty years have done the country a massive disservice. Starting in the Hawke/Keating years but taken to a scandalous level by governments of the opposite persuasion, to the extent that corruption and incompetence is rampant. Our current government has no concept of what the public service could, and should, be!Report
                                                                                                                          1. Lesley RussellAdjunct Associate Professor, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of SydneyIn reply to john daviesAs per Thodey Review of APShttps://pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/government/independent-review-australian-public-serviceReport
                                                                                                                            1. Trevor Kerrlogged in via TwitterIn reply to Lesley RussellThat Thodey Review has many references to ‘accountability’, but not one word on the concept of penalties to back it up when breaches occur. The Review says bugger-all about management of conflicts of interest, only thisAmend the Public Service Act 1999 …ِ to … ِ include requirements to ensure agency heads and SES avoid or manage potential conflicts of interest after leaving the APS.In other words, nothing but the sound of 🦗🦗.It would help to restore the bridge of trust between citizens & Govt if just one of the agencies of APS that steer the direction of expenditure of public money would publish what it does to manage conflicts of interest.More from the Report -Accordingly, it is critical for the APS to have the capability to deliver clear value for money and better outcomes through its relationships with external providers.
                                                                                                                              Finance to develop, for Secretaries Board endorsement and Government agreement, a framework for APS use of external providers. Framework to focus on better decision-making, value for money and outcomes.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                            2. Jose CroneroThe 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.Hang on….How are all other vaccines rolled out nationally? GPs? Chemists? Are these not private for profit entities?Report
                                                                                                                              1. john daviesIn reply to Jose CroneroNot really very clever Jose. I suggest you quote the rest of the para. Isn’t context so important!Report
                                                                                                                              2. George FinlayYou’d be naive to think that the massive and dangerous failure of our vaccination program was largely a problem caused by lower numbers in the public service or the use of private contractors per se.Problems raised about these issues in the comments here have validity. But the failed vaccination program has fundamentally been caused by very poor federal political leadership and poor overall federal management of the program. The failures have been exacerbated by the tendency of the government to spin, create diversions and exaggerate differences between the states rather than unite all the country and all the impressive resources this country has to get the vaccination program up to an acceptable standard. So that we don’t remain the worst performer of all OECD countries. We as a country have a very impressive public and private health system, very impressive and capable public and private organizations which should all be helping in this fight we have with the virus. But we know of two key organizations at least : the aged care industry and the organization of pharmacies which are well positioned and qualified to help and are not being fully used by the government. With the secrecy revealed in this article it’s hard to know how many more organizations offering to help have not been used to their potential by the government. And the government should not be waiting for organizations to offer help, it should be actively and creatively seeking help. Arguably there are still many untapped sources of help. Until the government comes clean and releases the information this article reveals the government has been hiding the electorate would be foolish to believe the government’s statements of regret or to have confidence in the capability of the government to turn their poor performance around.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                                1. Steve HindleSounds like there a need for an entity with oversight of the contracted consultants overseeing the contractor companies and their sub-contractors. I guess that is something the Government could contract out?Report
                                                                                                                                  1. George FinlayUntil the secrecy and coverup stops we should regard any expression of regret by the government with suspicion. The government needs to show its good faith by releasing all the information this article reveals it’s been keeping secret. If it doesn’t the expressions of regret should be regarded as just another element of its spin campaign. The secrecy and coverup revealed in this article are consistent with the spin, the muddying of the waters and the obfuscation we’ve been getting from the government. Secrecy makes it easier to spin and cover up failures and mismanagement. We know from the vaccination figures which can’t be hidden that the vaccination program overall has been a dangerously slow failure. But we don’t have all the details of why it’s been a failure. We need information this article shows is being hidden released so we can learn from the failure and turn this vaccination program around.Rather than seeking to divide, hide and obfuscate the government needs to take the community into its confidence. We are in this together. Only then will the government deserve any forgiveness for its failures. And only then will its failures be reversed.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                                    1. Dave BradleyGet real. Morrison knew exactly what he was doing. He is just so utterly incompetent and mean. Morrison is more guilty of the offence of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office than the ObiedsMorrison’s misconduct has cost many lives and billions of dollarsHis intention was to take credit for Roll out away from the states so he alone could claim credit tor saving Australia from Covid, win an early election and blow vaccine savings on his Covid led Gas economic recovery and tax cuts.But he didn’t follow expert advice in July 2020 and buy enough vaccines like every other developed country did. The LNP conspired against Australia.https://i.imgur.com/vXwqiZf.jpgReport
                                                                                                                                      1. Andrew FisherI think there is little point in analysing this rollout as a discrete event. Our government spends billions outsourcing the provision of functions and services hitherto provided by government, to the private sector. Always with the same results. It costs more, it delivers less, it reduces the pool of skilled labour and it hobbles the government’s ability to react to changes and to control outcomes. And although the LNP are far more persistent in this, recent Labor governments have also played this game. The question is, why.Decades ago, we were sold the myth that private companies were leaner and more efficient than bloated government departments. We were told that they could be more flexible and more innovative and that we would get better value for money by letting them take over. Those claims have been belied by reality. Even in the few cases where private companies are all those things, the benefits don’t flow through to the state.Some people think that these moves by politicians and administrators are simply about enriching themselves and their friends. The proportion of MPs who become very rich during their tenure has never been higher and there are enough cases where the beneficiaries of decisions have been personal friends or acquaintances. So while this is clearly true in some cases, it probably doesn’t explain the overall thrust.My own belief that this relentless move to rid the government of its assets, capabilities and responsibilities, has more to do with a certain ideological world view. What we are seeing is an attempt to dismantle the trappings of the modern liberal democratic state. It’s a religious fight against big government that has nothing to do with social good. The point is that our government doesn’t believe it should be responsible for providing social benefit, or social reform, or social anything. This government, in particular, has never articulated a social vision. Like Thatcher in Britain decades ago, they don’t even believe in the existence of society. Looking at government decisions in this light, they make more sense and appear more consistent.The refusal to manage the vaccine rollout is as deliberate as the refusal to take action on global warming and results from the same way of thinking. They might prefer us to survive the pandemic and the coming climate catastrophe but they won’t acknowledge any collective responsibility to achieve those ends. Using the superior government infrastructure to vaccinate us would be admitting that some things can only, or best, be accomplished by collective action and they just can’t come at that.Read moreReport

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