Suppliers want to sue Ministry of Health in Bonn did not pay for ordered FFP2 masks

Bonn · The Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) in Bonn is facing a wave of lawsuits: The BMG ordered FFP2 masks and did not pay fully for them. The background is an open-house trial at the beginning of the corona wave. It could involve 4.5 billion Euro.

 Several dozen complaints will reach the Ministry of Health in Bonn in the coming weeks.

Several dozen complaints will reach the Ministry of Health in Bonn in the coming weeks.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

The Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) in Bonn is threatened with a wave of lawsuits for unpaid bills. At the end of March, the BMG initiated an open-house procedure. It wanted to quickly solve the lack of FFP2 masks for hospitals. Well over 700 confirmed orders were made. Some companies want to take legal action because of unpaid bills. 22 lawsuits currently lie with the Regional Court in Bonn, as press spokeswoman Patricia Meyer informs the GA.

At the beginning of the corona pandemic, the Federal Ministry of Health feared a massive lack of FFP2 masks. In addition to a large number of individual procurement measures, the Ministry initiated a so-called open-house procedure via the General Customs Directorate. Every company that accepted the specified contractual conditions and prices was entitled to conclude a contract. The ministry promised to purchase FFP2 masks at 4.50 Euro per item and surgical masks at 60 cents each.

Unit price of 4.50 Euro per FFP2 mask

"A total of 738 contracts were awarded for around 1.03 billion FFP2 masks and 1.02 billion surgical masks, as well as around 54 million protective gowns," BMG press spokesman Sebastian Gülde responded to a request from the GA. A total of 308 companies are said to have supplied "personal protective equipment" in the open-house procedure so far. Gülde did not comment on the amount of the invoice. At a unit price of 4.50 Euro per FFP2 mask, that would already be 4.5 billion Euro, which the Federal Ministry of the Interior would have to pay. As "Apotheke Adhoc" reported, however, only 1.2 billion Euro of budget funds are to be made available to settle the bill, according to a BMG spokesperson.

According to the BMG, almost half of the partners were not able to meet the delivery deadlines and thus left the contract. Furthermore, the ministry had completely cancelled one sixth of the remaining contracts "due to poor quality of the goods". As the BMG stated, there had been logistical problems with the payment, which "arose largely as a result of the necessary quantity and, above all, the quality inspection of the delivered goods". "Frequently, documents justifying invoices were also missing, such as delivery notes, TÜV reports or the invoices were incorrect," the BMG explained the reasons for the unpaid invoices. In order to remedy the situation quickly and easily, the federal government pays down payments of up to 50 percent after a quantity check. When the results of the quality control are available, the remaining amount will be transferred. "The exact number of suppliers who have experienced payment delays cannot be stated at present," said the BMG spokesperson. "In particular, some contracts are still under legal review.“

Ministry argues with high workload

The Ministry justifies the long processing time of the orders with the high workload. "The BMG has introduced a careful three-step quality assurance process." TÜV Nord has been commissioned for this. "This process is very time-consuming, but absolutely necessary." Due to the special circumstances of masks often produced in Asian countries and the production conditions there, they do not comply with the standard requirements in about one fifth of the cases. This is particularly the case with FFP2 masks.

Since the Federal Ministry of Health is located in Bonn, the lawsuits are brought before the local regional court. 22 lawsuits are currently before the Regional Court; in about three quarters of them, the advance has already been paid. "This means that the lawsuits will now be sent to the Ministry," says spokeswoman Patricia Meyer. The value of the lawsuits ranges from 25,000 to 2.5 million. "The 2.5 million is more like an outlier. But there are several in the range of half a million Euro," says Meyer. In the civil case, the BMG now has two weeks to defend itself. "And then another two weeks to comment on the content."

The Federal Ministry of Health is currently aware of complaints by two suppliers (as of July 6th). One of the companies had filed four lawsuits. "The amount in dispute is close to six million euro", Gülde said. "The BMG will comment in the court proceedings."

(Original text: Thomas Leurs, Translation: Mareike Graepel)

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