Through every crisis, sadly, people find ways to take advantage of a situation and cause further harm to an already troubling issue.
Covid-19 has been no different. Right from when this outbreak was identified, At I-OnAsia we knew that countries, their governments and communities were in for a tough time, but little did we know that it would cause as significant impact as it has and continues to have around the world.
Governments globally haven’t been challenged in so many ways since WWII ended.
Prime Ministers, Presidents and First Minsters alike are leading their countries like they have never done before, closing cities and towns, imposing strict lock downs for its citizens to comply with, preparing hospitals for an inundation of sick patients, hospitals being built in a matter of days, rather than years, supplies of crucial medical equipment desperately being sought from all corners of the world, daily televised updates in front of packed media filled galleries on T.V screens, all for the cause of trying to fight an enemy that nobody can see and knows very little about. Terrifying stuff, and not a situation any of us would want to find ourselves trying to manage, the decision making today, could ultimately effect the lives of so many for years to come, be it the loss of a loved one far earlier than ever envisaged, or the irreparable financial damage to small, medium and large sized businesses, this is uncharted territory for everybody.
Whether you’re a government, corporate, medium or small sized organisation one of your primary roles and responsibilities is to provide your people with a safe working environment, and to do that when your facing a deadly virus like Covid-19 is to make sure your team is equipped with good quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
PPE provides the wearer with a shield, a physical barrier to assist in preventing infection from one to another. For doctors, nurses, care workers, paramedics, health workers and other front line workers, its the most important piece of equipment they can have, not only for themselves and their own families, but to keep them on the front line supporting the fight against this invisible enemy and treating the very sick affected by this silent killer.
However, as countries begin to panic and rapidly source PPE from all corners of the globe to manage this issue, the thoughts and cogs of opportunistic fraudsters begin to spin into overdrive. The chance to make significant amounts of money at the expense of others can easily be achieved by registering a domain name, building a quick site, and spending a few dollars on medical images, one can become a veteran of the PPE supply chain within hours and before the end of the day have their business in the Governments Covid-19 portal ready to be assessed as one of the ‘good guys’.
As an industry leader in due diligence, I-OnAsia identified very quickly that “Pop Up” PPE suppliers were going to emerge and begin offering various products at eye watering competitive prices. As a result of our assessment of this threat to Government and business we launched PPE Due Diligence Packages to support our global clients with this issue.
The most commonly asked question we were receiving?
How do I identify the good suppliers, versus the bad ones, if even the Governments can’t get this right?
An easy question to answer, good and thorough due diligence processes that needs careful examination by trained analyst to ensure that everything about the provider you are dealing with is accurate.
The very purpose of due diligence is to ensure first an foremost that the people you are dealing with are who they say they are, and that their organisation, and or company has existed for some time and is conversant with PPE production, a company that has only been formed for a matter of weeks and whose website is “Under Construction” needs to be treated with great caution, and can quite quickly be identified as a “Pop Up” PPE supplier if they fail to demonstrate all of the above.
One of the biggest red flags in any due diligence project in PPE is to see a sudden and dramatic change in manufacturing processes, an example we identified was one company who went from manufacturing children’s toys, to building life saving ventilation equipment, there could not be a bigger contrast in two products that leaves cause for concern as to the certification and reliability of such a product at such short notice.
Equally as important as knowing the company you are dealing with, is certificates of a products standard, be it BSI, CE or ISO certification each needs to be verified, checked and shown to be true and accurate, and not a quick mock up of one that was found online with the names changed, or written in a native language to confuse the buyer. A common tactic of the PPE scams is to place a couple of genuine certificates in among several fake ones that cant be located or verified. In the desperation of a promised order, the supplier is hoping that the due diligence wont be that thorough and these will be missed.
It is to this end that one must always know who the manufacturers of these products are, largely clients are dealing with suppliers of PPE, not manufacturers who are the critical link in showcasing that they have known sites which produce PPE, that they have the capacity to deliver on the products outlined, and that they to have sound backgrounds and have been established for a period of time which gives confidence that orders placed, can, and will be fulfilled to a standard to which they have been recognised and checked off against.
At I-OnAsia we developed with our partners a due diligence process for clients who may require different levels of oversight. Our Bronze, Silver & Gold packages cater for all sizes of orders, from basic due diligence in our Bronze package to daily onsite observations of PPE production in our Gold package, each takes into the account the size of the order and the level of risk to our clients committing to large quantities of PPE globally.
Already, supporting clients all over Europe, the UK, Asia and America we have thwarted and reported several PPE scammers both home and abroad trying to take advantage of this global pandemic. We have carried out site visits to some of the most remote parts of the middle east to confirm manufacturing processes and factory locations, and validated large quantities of certifications for masks, coveralls, gloves and other vital pieces of PPE.
In early May, I-OnAsia was proud to have partnered with global logistics firm JAG-UFS in supporting their clients in factory audits all over the world to ensure suppliers and manufacturers meet standards and meet timely deadlines which can cost thousands of pounds in loses with aircraft waiting to be loaded and dispatched with much needed cargo if delays arise.
“We couldn’t be happier to have I-OnAsia support our clients with the due diligence of chosen suppliers. We’ve sadly heard of some horror stories from around the world. This packaged due diligence service gives our valued clients complete peace of mind, knowing deadlines and standards will be met.” Gary Wilcox, Managing Director, JAG-UFS
With these partnerships and processes in place, clients can be assured that everything is being done to ensure their purchases of much needed PPE can be done so in a timely manner ensuring that providers can deliver a quality product that can be utilised to save lives and protect those that much need them on the front line in fighting Covid-19.