WHO MADE A KILLING FROM THE COVID SCAMDEMIC
We found deals involving “eye-wateringly large” sums of money that have proved highly controversial.
Revelations have already hit headlines about large PPE and testing contracts awarded to firms that ultimately supplied unsuitable products – such as Ayanda Capital Ltd and Randox – which has placed a spotlight on the government’s use of emergency procurement powers.
Now UK can reveal other areas of government spending that raise further questions about how suppliers were selected and how these deals were arranged.
We found that PPE contracts worth £186m, the second largest amount spent with any PPE supplier, went to UK logistics firm Uniserve Limited, whose multi-millionaire owner is listed as a speaker for the influential pro-Brexit lobby group Prosperity UK. Other speakers listed on the site include chancellor Rishi Sunak and cabinet minister Michael Gove.
Another two large PPE contracts worth £49m in total went to a company, Initia Ventures Ltd, with assets of only £100. Companies House records list it as dormant.
Of the 10 companies that were handed the highest value deals to supply the government with PPE, we found that five had no apparent record of procuring PPE previously.
One firm told HuffPost UK its plan to manufacture face masks in the UK for as little as 10p a unit was turned down by government, despite its offer to make 75m masks a month at no profit at the point when the NHS need for PPE was at its most dire.
Smaller UK testing companies also told HuffPost UK the process unfairly excluded them from winning orders and may have deprived the UK of vital tests at the peak of the pandemic.
We found consultancy firm KPMG was paid almost £1m for three months’ work on one Nightingale hospital in Harrogate. This is the first time any information has come into the public domain about spending with top consultancy firms on the Nightingales. The government and NHS has faced criticism for its secrecy over the issue.
But these deals and others revealed in the data raise questions about how the government, moving at speed and during a period of incredibly intense global demand, decided which companies should be appointed as suppliers.
Under the guidelines that are in place under emergency Covid-19 procurement powers, known as Regulation 32 powers, government and other public authorities do not have to go out to competitive tender due to the need to appoint suppliers with “extreme urgency”.
However, it is unclear how the government sought to achieve best value for money without the usual checks and balances in place – for example, how the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would have selected a dormant company such as Initia Ventures Ltd, which has no history manufacturing PPE, as a supplier when it was not carrying out tendering processes.