New York City wasted $200 million on unused COVID-19 materials and sold them off for a tiny fraction of the purchase price, according to reporting by NYC outlet The City.
The city government auctioned off materials, including N-95 masks and breathing devices known as “bridge vents,” for a steeply discounted price. For the 9.5 million items auctioned off, taxpayers recouped just $500,000, or five cents per item, per the report.
According to emails acquired by The City, in one of the auctions that yielded sales, the bidders paid $194,000 for materials that originally cost $980,000. The report also notes that taxpayers shelled out $12 million for ventilators that were later sold as scrap metal for less than $25,000.
Additionally, the city paid millions of dollars for materials that either did not work properly or were never delivered, according to The City. For instance, the report details the acquisition of N95 masks that were “poor quality or not FDA-certified,” as well as $9.1 million spent on ventilators that never arrived. City government overpaid for face shields, buying 50,000 at $6.70 a piece, compared to the going price of $3.67 each. The city also attempted to sell 500,000 medical aprons for $500, but it is not clear whether the items received any bids, according to the report. (RELATED: Crack Pipe Distributors Received More Than $5 Million In Federal COVID Loans)
The City notes that they obtained price information from private auction houses and that city government officials refused to discuss equipment sales.
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New York City has donated much of its unused COVID response material to developing countries like Indonesia, Ghana and Haiti, according to the report.
The city’s excessive spending during the early days of the pandemic has been documented before. Last September, Politico reported that New York City spent $250,000,000 on unused technology, including ventilators and X-ray machines, to fight COVID. City schools spent only half of their allocated COVID relief, according to reporting by ChalkBeat.