The government in the past year paid out some €20 million for Covid-19 tests that were never carried out, De Tijd reports.
The majority of the money went to the laboratories of the Belgian universities, according to the government’s response to a parliamentary question from N-VA.
The reason appears to be that the labs were unable to reach the minimum level of tests expected of them.
The problem dates back to the summer of 2020, when Sophie Wilmès was still in office as prime minister, and her government nominated eight university laboratories as ‘superlabs’ to carry out Covid testing. The world was still awaiting the approval of the various vaccines then in development.
The aim was to use the superlabs to back up the private labs who were then carrying out testing, taking care of around half of all tests being carried out.
The superlabs, for some reason, were paid a fixed sum, and given a quota of 2,000 tests a day to be carried out, building up to 7,000 in time. The operation was to be run by experts – by then prominent media figures – Herman Goossens (UZ Antwerpen) and Emmanuel André (UZ Leuven).
According to N-VA MP Frieda Gijbels, the figures show that the labs rarely reached even the minimum threshold of 2,000 tests a day. When the calculation is done, the labs among them received €19.7 million for tests that were never carried out.
For now, the contract with the superlabs will run for another year, although the need for widespread testing has gone down even lower than it was a year ago, as a result of a high level of vaccination. Federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said the compensation paid to the superlabs would be reduced, as would the targets they never managed to attain in the first place.