Auditors clear award of smallpox vaccine contract

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In a special report on the affair, the government spending watchdog said it found no link between two £50,000 donations and the award of the contract by the Department of Health in 2002.

The appointment of PowderJect and the department’s decision not to reveal publicly details of the procurement, had raised concerns among some suppliers and parliament.

The National Audit Office examined relevant documents and emails and questioned senior officials, including the senior medical officer.

This confirmed the minister and officials were unaware of the donations until 18 February, when the submission recommending the award was delivered to the minister’s office.

At the request of the minister, the permanent secretary of the department examined and endorsed the officials’ recommendation.

The crucial factor in awarding the contract was that PowderJect was the only company that could supply the required new cell-derived Lister strain of the vaccine within the required timescales.

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