Global consulting giant McKinsey will be paid nearly $1 million to provide a secret report to the federal government on how to increase the number of rapid antigen tests available in Australia.
The Industry department awarded McKinsey an $841,500 contract last month, revealed publicly this week, for “professional advice and assessment on options to increase the supply of rapid antigen tests in Australia”.
McKinsey will be delivering this report to the government in mid-April, but the contract listed a confidentiality clause, meaning it will not be made public.
This confidentiality clause cites public interest and intellectual property as justifications.
An InnovationAus.com report this week found that McKinsey grew its Canberra business in 2020-21 by more than 75 per cent year-on-year, scooping up an extra $25.2 million in work from the federal government.
The lack of access to rapid antigen tests (RATs) has been a significant issue across Australia this year, with unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 cases and a move away from PCR tests.
Nearly all of the RATs currently available in Australia are being imported from overseas, with local providers still waiting for regulatory approval to sell their tests here.
This is despite these same companies manufacturing RATs in Australia and exporting them around the world.
The Coalition has been widely criticised for not acting earlier on RATs following revelations the government was approached by the industry about this issue in late 2020.
The Department has now turned to an outside consultancy for “professional advice and assessment” on ways to increase the supply of RATs in Australia.
It comes just a week after the Department of Health spent a further $54 million on rapid tests which will be imported from overseas. The contract, running over four months, is with Medical Industries Australia, a sponsor of RATs from overseas.
The federal government has now spent more than $140 million on similar contracts to bring in rapid antigen tests from overseas.
It also awarded Australian Healthcare Associates a near $9 million contract to help administer the concessional scheme for RATs, which launched last month.
Labor Senators last week labelled the lack of local manufacturing of RATs as a “tremendous failure”, criticising the Coalition for not supporting Australian industry to do so.
The Victorian government recently went it alone and inked a deal with Lumos Diagnostics and Planet Innovation to launch a $17.2 million manufacturing facility for RATs and medical products in the state. This facility is contingent on Lumos Diagnostics receiving Therapeutic Goods Administration Approval for its rapid antigen test.
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