Handling of PPE shipments from China criticised in HSE audit

Concerns raised over way deliveries were measured at a Dublin warehouse

The HSE risked deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) being incorrect due to the way shipments were measured at a Dublin warehouse, an internal audit has found.

In the early stages of the pandemic, the HSE secured orders of PPE from China costing about €260 million. The equipment was receipted in a Dublin warehouse, which, prior to Covid-19, was designated as a Brexit contingency stock hub.

In June 2020, the HSE conducted an internal audit on the premises and found “documented procedures” receipting for PPE stock had been developed by HBS Logistics and Inventory Management, which included stock recording templates and checklists.

However, the audit found the process was “inherently limited” and while the warehouse could detail the information on stock received, it could not reconcile the arrivals with what it should have received from the orders.


The auditors said the implication of this was a “risk that the HSE may not receive the correct quantities and types of PPE stock that it has ordered and in some cases has paid for in advance”.

The report also highlighted that while new types of PPE were submitted for clinical quality review purposes, equipment that was originally deemed to be of acceptable quality was only visually inspected to confirm it matched with the stock that was originally tested.

“A risk exists that subsequent PPE stock may not be to the same quality standard as the original tested stock,” the report said.

In its recommendations, the audit said HBS needed to document and implement a process that provides assurance that the PPE stock ordered and paid for is being received in its entirety.

The HBS national director accepted the recommendation and said full implementation of it was pending the last flight/delivery of the PPE in the third quarter of 2020.

Asked about the audit, a spokeswoman for the HSE said the “unprecedented” nature of the pandemic necessitated a response “ far beyond the traditional public procurement process”.

“Securing sufficient PPE in response to the pandemic was and remains a key priority for HSE,” she said.

“It is entirely appropriate to conduct a thorough audit of the systems and controls in relation to the sourcing, the management and the usage of PPE. This audit is currently ongoing.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times