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Internal audit reveals possible faulty procurement process at HUS hospital network

Helsinki University Hospital HUS may have spent tens of millions of euros on goods and services that hadn't been properly tendered first.

Jalat sairaalan lattian ohjeviidakossa.
Image: Kalevi Rytkölä / Yle

A report from November 2018 on an internal audit conducted by the Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) – a network of 22 hospitals in the capital city area – reveals that up to tens of millions of euros in public procurement may not have been publicly announced and made subject to competitive bidding, as Finnish and EU laws require.

The audit covered the months of January to August last year.

The report suggests that internal monitoring of two billion euros in procurement in the organisation was lacking in 2018, while a November summary from HUS leadership states that the audit implies blatant negligence of the legal provisions associated with public procurement. According to the audit, the network's logistics operations, administration and various units all knew of the problem.

A working paper from an internal audit in September shows that HUS directly purchased 1.7 million euros in DNA analyses from a private company in 2017 and 2018 without first putting the work up for tender. The audit also found that no kind of contract was ever drawn up for this work.

FCAA investigating the claim

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority's public procurement supervision unit has started an investigation into the case, and will not comment further.

An EU directive on public procurement was enacted in 2014, as the absence of proper regulation was seen to generate economic inefficiency and had a negative impact on getting the best value for public money.

Finnish law requires competitive bidding be arranged for all social and health care service purchases worth over 400,000 euros.

HUS board chair Ulla-Marja Urho says that if the audit's observations are true, then the oversight must be a mistake. She says she has not seen the auditors' report, as they report to the HUS CEO. Aki Lindén was the HUS CEO when the audit was completed, but he has since moved on to be elected to the Finnish Parliament as a Social Democratic Party representative.

The network's new CEO Juha Tuominen says he won't comment on the past, but will take immediate action to enforce a clearer procurement policy in order to use public money cost-efficiently.

Finland's largest health care provider

HUS is a local strategic partnership, with 24 member municipalities in the capital city area and beyond. The 22 hospitals in the network provide medical care to more than half a million patients annually, and it is the central hub for the treatment of many rare and severe diseases in Finland.

It is the biggest health care provider and the second largest employer in the country, boasting over 25,000 employees.

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