MPs are demanding to know where the head of the Covid Test and Trace operation has disappeared to, amid the mounting national crisis.
Baroness Dido Harding has been labelled “Dido Hiding” by critics looking for answers over the scheme’s performance.
She is head of the £22billion programme, but has not been seen in public, nor on virtual screenings, since early November.
Then, she told MPs she and her team did not see the rise in infections coming after schools went back following the summer.
Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said: “Harding should be there to answer questions.
“There have been lots of chances to stand next to the PM at press briefings or to do her own. She’s also a member of the Lords, so she could also speak up there. But we are getting nothing.”
Among issues MPs want to raise are payments to 2,300 management consultants out of the Test and Trace budget, which is larger than most Whitehall departments’.
Since the start of the pandemic the programme has swallowed up £375million on private consultancy contracts – £163,000 per consultant, according to Commons figures.
The privately run scheme only met its target of tracking 80% of possible carriers once, when it hit 80.2% in the week before Christmas.
It is not just MPs who have noticed Baroness Harding’s absence.
LBC radio’s James O’Brien wrote: “Dido Harding has been tested. And now she can’t be traced.”
While Twitter user Pgilhooly1 posted: “Isn’t it weird that testing, track and trace is not heard of at all? Where is Dido Harding?”
Baroness Harding issued a statement via officials last week, claiming: “We are successfully reaching record numbers of people.
“We continue to make tests available to anybody who needs one.”
The Baroness, married to Tory MP John Penrose, is not paid for the role but as head of NHS Improvement she has received a total of at least £130,000 since 2018 for two days’ work a week.
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