The UK has agreed to settle a lawsuit over how it chose an IT contract to test for coronavirus at Lighthouse Labs.
The BBC understands the settlement will cost the government up to 2 million pounds sterling.
British company Diagnostics AI claimed that it lost to European competitor UgenTec despite discovering some positive cases of Corona virus that its competitor missed.
She sued the government over the decision, claiming that the selection process was “unfair and illegal”.
Lighthouse Labs is a UK-wide network of specialized coronavirus laboratories run by the government and run by private companies. When the laboratories were created, the companies analyzed the test results.
The dispute was to take place in court. It would have meant a public check on the accuracy and speed of the testing system, at a time when it has come under serious criticism.
But the government decided to settle the case and will pay Diagnostics AI and most of the legal fees.
However, despite the payment being approved, the government refuted the allegations made by Diagnostics AI, saying they were “inaccurate”.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Social Care said: “The tests are reliable and effective. The laboratories they conduct have been reviewed and evaluated by experts, and the percentage of false negatives or false positives is minimal.”
“This was a commercial dispute over a software contract as a number of factors were considered before it was awarded, which are still subject to final agreement on costs.”
With the contract valued at more than £ 1m, the BBC understands that the settlement including legal costs could amount to around £ 2m.
Dispute over contract decision
Swabs are taken from people at test sites or home tests and treated with a chemical process that produces a graph. The program is used to determine whether the graphs show that the sample was positive or negative for Coronavirus.
Diagnostic tools claimed that UgenTec’s analysis of the 2000 trial run was defective. In some cases, UgenTec has claimed to have found negative results for the coronavirus, while the results are positive or inconclusive.
“ The system they eventually followed and decided to pay for missed about 50 out of 800 positive people [results]This represents about one in 15, or so, one in 16 – to be exact – positives, Aaron Cohen, chief executive of Diagnostics AI, told the BBC.
“Obviously, when that translates into hundreds of thousands of samples daily, there are potentially thousands of missed positives every day. So this was a really concern for us.”
In contrast, UgenTec claimed that no patient was affected at all because it was a trial.
“We provide critical interpretation services to Lighthouse to help them manage the vast amounts of data they generate. These claims are inaccurate and misleading,” Stephen Verhoeven, CEO of UgenTec, told the BBC.
“None of these samples refer to actual results given to patients or the public which imply that any impact on public health is wrong. Live testing was not supported by our software at the time it was in progress. As indicated by an independent testing company, We have complete confidence in our program and the services that we provide. “
Diagnostics AI has also filed a lawsuit against two government-owned and funded nonprofits – UK Biocentre and Medicines Delivery Catapult (MDC), which administered the process to determine which company to use.
Court papers show that between March 31 and April 14, Diagnostics AI repeatedly requested information about exactly what services they wanted and how their offerings would be evaluated.
Diagnostics says Amnesty International has never received the information it requested. This was disputed by UK Biocentre, which says both providers received the same information.
When both bids were considered in early April, the UK was facing what Boris Johnson called a “national emergency moment”.
In such urgent circumstances, the law provides for the government to purchase services without a competitive process, if certain conditions are met.
However, it is understood that both Diagnostics AI and Ugentec were recommended to UK Biocentre and thus a decision was made to evaluate both offerings.
Diagnostic Amnesty International says this process was unfair and flawed, but Biocenter UK insists it was fair to both bidders.
A spokesperson for UK Biocentre said: “The allegations are unfounded; this was a commercial dispute. The software in question is widely used at Lighthouse Laboratories, in some NHS labs and abroad.
“An external quality assurance has confirmed that the PCR test at Lighthouse Laboratories, of which the Automated Diagnostic Program is a part, is functioning well.”
A MDC spokesperson also provided the BBC with a statement: “The full results of the evaluation identified UgenTec as a safe, high-quality, high-volume provider, with a comprehensive support system in place. It has performed admirably over the past six months, analyzing over eight million test results Of the nation. The litigation was a purely commercial dispute. “
The BBC understands that investigations have been carried out into the allegations made by Diagnostics AI, but has concluded that concerns about the safety of UgenTec are unfounded.
However, Mr. Cohen disagrees: “The government pays a lot of money. And they pay this, you know, to avoid this at least in part, to avoid having to bring these cases to court, and have discussions on the accuracy of the test.”