Anonymous witnesses say that the authorities already knew about malpractice at contract tracing call centres

Several anonymous witnesses have told VRT News that the Flemish authorities were made aware of malpractice at contact tracing call centres prior to it being reported to them by journalists from the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. However, the Flemish Care and Health Agency claims that these earlier reports were “too vague”. 

In the wake of Het Laatste Nieuws’ report on malpractice at one of the call centres that was being used for contact tracing work in Flanders several witnesses contacted VRT News. The general tone of what they had to say was “This has been known for some time, but the Flemish authorities didn’t want to act”.

According to the witnesses, who wish to remain anonymous, officials noticed several months ago that all was not right when they carried out checks one of the call centres in question’s sites in Ghent (East Flanders).

"The people there were working sometimes for the authorities as a contact tracer and sometimes as a telephonist for a private company. But while working for the private company they were reminded by their team leader that they should say that they were being given training for their contact tracing duties. This mean that were also being paid by the Flemish authorities (as well as by the private firm) and they were in fact paid twice”.  

Our witness said that this practice carried on shamelessly as officials sent to the call centre to carry out quality control checks were present.  At least one of the officials reported the malpractice to the Flemish Care and Health Agency. VRT News sources say that it was even the case that several did so. This is reported to have been several months ago.

"But we were told that the Agency couldn’t do anything about it”, one witness said.

However, Dirk De Wolf of the Flemish Care and Health Agency says that this isn’t true. Mr De Wolf told the VRT "That these kinds of issues with so many concrete indications were known to us is something that I am going to have to deny. Of course, contact tracing is very complex. There are things that can go wrong, and we certainly won’t deny that".

Mr De Wolf was keen to stress that it is difficult for the Agency to uncover malpractice and that without the whistle-blower it would have remained undetected.

The Flemish Care and Health Agency has since terminated the call centre’s contract and an external audit will be carried out on the call centres that are involved in contact tracing in Flanders. The Agency has also lodged a complaint with the judicial Authorities.

So far, we have been unable to contact the company that has been accused of the malpractice. 

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