THE SCOTTISH Conservatives have called for a “full investigation” into the furloughing of staff working on the test and trace service.
It comes after the Herald on Sunday revealed today that Go-Centric, which was awarded a £10m contract by NHS National Services Scotland to take over the contract, immediately put staff on furlough.
The firm has claimed £21,000 in UK Government support for staff wages, and started doing so in March – the same month it was awarded the high-value contract from the NHS.
Staff have raised concerns about the firm, and told the Herald on Sunday they were astonished to find out they were being furloughed when their contracts transferred to Go-Centric.
Previously they had been working for another firm, Pursuit Marketing, which lost the test and protect contract and it was split between two new companies – Go-Centric, and Ascensos.
Some staff who transferred to Go-Centric were offered furlough and others say they were given shifts which did not compare to those they were doing at pursuit, and made it impossible for them to work.
Scottish Conservative chief whip, Stephen Kerr said: “These findings are damning and raise serious flaws about the checks and balances which were made regarding the procurement of services for a struggling Test and Protect system.
“Scotland is relying on Test and Protect more than ever before yet the SNP Government are content on allowing parts of this company to just shutdown.
“Staff who could have been used to help tackle the pandemic have instead been treated as an afterthought and face an uncertain future which is completely unacceptable.
“A full investigation should be carried out to identify why this has happened during a period of significant importance to public health.”
Nhs National Services Scotland, which awarded the contract, previously told The Herald on Sunday there were “no issues” since the contract transferred.
When asked what checks were carried out on Go-centric before it was awarded the contract, NSS Head of Procurement Kris Lindsay said: “Go-Centric was appointed to support this NHS-led service following a robust and transparent open tender process. This process fully met our rigorous procurement standards and all regulations.”
Asked if NSS was aware that staff had been furloughed after the transfer, Mr Lindsay said: “NSS has taken all appropriate actions within our remit to support the transfer of service from our previous partner to Go-Centric.”
He insisted NSS “rigorously monitor and review supplier performance against agreed contractual standards” but added that the “operational decisions” taken by firms “within that agreed contractual framework are the responsibility of the supplier.”
Asked if NSS thought it was appropriate for a private firm to claim furlough money from the public purse when it was paid £10m for the test and trace service, Mr Lindsay said it was “not appropriate” to offer an opinion.
He added: “There have been no issues following the transition to our new supply partner.”
Go-Centric previously said: “Nearly 300 staff transferred to us from Pursuit Marketing, and as a professional contact centre we worked tirelessly to accommodate preferred shift patterns while fully honouring all TUPE obligations.
“A very small number of workers went on furlough for less than four weeks so that we could safeguard their jobs and ensure we could retain them long-term by reshaping our system to provide more hours.
“Throughout the pandemic we have created hundreds of new job opportunities in Scotland and we’re incredibly proud of every single employee who is contributing to our national recovery.”