Private retailers have been told their rapid antigen test orders are being delayed and redirected by the federal government as it made an urgent tender for millions of tests.
Five tenders for rapid antigen tests worth just under $62 million were published on Tuesday by the Department of Health.
The tenders website states the condition is due to "extreme urgency or events unforeseen."
This comes after criticism from pharmacists that the government wouldn't procure extra kits for businesses under the national concession card scheme.
The Department of Health said this latest tender was not for additional rapid antigen tests and instead was a part of the broader procurement of more than 70 million rapid tests.
"Each proposal was independently assessed against consistent criteria before the departmental delegate made the decision to procure the tests," a spokesperson told NCA NewsWire.
Shadow finance minister Senator Katy Gallagher said the contracts were the latest example of the Morrison government's 'living with COVID national plan' being "a complete failure."
"Despite knowing that rapid tests were a 'critical part' of opening up, as far back as September, the Morrison government did nothing to secure supplies until there was a national COVID testing crisis and we had empty shelves in pharmacies," Senator Gallagher said.
"How Scott Morrison could have left it until this week to order the RAT tests needed beggars belief. And it's Australians who are once again paying the price for Scott Morrison's incompetence."
Canberra businesses have expressed their frustration over the situation as they are experiencing intense customer demand for the rapid antigen tests every day.
Health food shop owner Gen Sparkle told ABC she received an email this week informing her that her order for 450 rapid antigen tests would be delayed.
The email from Ms Sparkle's supplier on Monday said a flight carrying the tests had been cancelled, which accounted for part of the issue but the federal government had also "placed a mandate order and will be taking supply for their requirements out of this order arriving this week."
Ms Sparkle told ABC she was "pretty disappointed".
"We've ordered 450 tests, and we did that because our customers are absolutely crying out for them," Mr Sparkle said.
A statement in response from the Department of Health said the government was "not seeking to place itself ahead of other commercial and retail entities."
"The Department of Health has purchased RAT supplies in accordance with Commonwealth procurement rules ... it is doing so through normal commercial channels."
More to come
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