Canada wasted billions in pandemic response

AFP
December 07, 2022

OTTAWA: Canada wasted billions of dollars on unused Covid vaccines and pandemic aid to people who were not eligible for it, says an audit released on Tuesday of the government´s response to...

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OTTAWA: Canada wasted billions of dollars on unused Covid vaccines and pandemic aid to people who were not eligible for it, says an audit released on Tuesday of the government´s response to the health crisis.

In reports presented to Parliament, Auditor General Karen Hogan said the government moved fast to roll out Covid-19 emergency programmes to provide relief and help the economy rebound. By relying on information provided by applicants and limiting controls in order to expedite the payments, the government had “recognised that there was a risk that some payments would go to ineligible recipients,” Hogan said.

But time is now running out to recoup those overpayments $3.4 billion as a 36-month legal deadline looms, she warned. “We estimated that at least Can$27.4 billion of payments to individuals and employers should be investigated further,” she added.

As of mid-2022, only Can$2.3 billion in overpayments had been recovered through voluntary repayments. In its zeal to secure vaccines to reduce Canadians´ risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death, the government also overbought vaccine doses, the auditor general said.

Ottawa signed advance purchase agreements with seven companies that were developing Covid-19 vaccines, and between December 2020 and May 2022 obtained 169 million doses -- far more than was needed to inoculate its population of 38 million. Of its approximately 84 million surplus doses, 15.3 million were donated to other countries, while 13.6 million spoiled, according to the audit. And most of remaining stockpile is expected to expire by the end of 2022 if not used for boosters or donated, it concluded.



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