Maryland’s emergency coronavirus spending is facing mounting scrutiny following the revelation that thousands of tests purchased from South Korea were flawed and had to be returned.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced in April the purchase of 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea, which he welcomed as “a game-changing step” that would expand the state’s testing capability. He recently admitted publicly that the tests did not work as intended.
During a Maryland Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday, acting Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader acknowledged that the Hogan administration returned the first batch of tests and then quietly paid millions more to replace them.
“We were under pressure and we were negotiating with the manufacturer,” Schrader said, defending the additional payment. “The manufacturer was not willing to just replace the tests.”
The new batch of tests ended up costing the state $2.5 million.
“Because of the crisis we were in, there was a sense at that time that the $2.5 million would be valuable to get the tests here,” Schrader said.
According to Schrader, more than 430,000 of those tests have since been used.
Lawmakers in the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, have repeatedly asked for more details about the purchase.
During public meetings with the Hogan administration, lawmakers questioned why they could not get answers to their questions, specifically about how many of the tests had been used.
Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat who chairs the House Health and Government Operations Committee, previously said she believes “the administration has been lying to us through this process.”
“Do I feel like I can now trust anything that the governor’s office says? No,” Pendergrass said.
Auditors with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services plan to investigate all of the state’s emergency coronavirus spending and release a report on their findings sometime early next year.
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