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Sunday, November 08, 2020

The COVID controversy rolls on

As if it were not bad enough that government contracts are being given out willy-nilly to companies with little track record in their chosen field, with links to key government members and advisors and with minimal, if any, competitive tendering, we now have allegations that the head of the UK's vaccine taskforce has hired eight public relations consultants at a cost to the taxpayer of £670,000.

The Independent says that Kate Bingham, who was appointed to chair the group by Boris Johnson, reportedly "insisted" on hiring the team from London agency Admiral Associates.

They says the consultants have been overseeing her media strategy since June at the equivalent salary of £167,000 a year each, it is claimed. However it remains unclear what work the team have done that could not have been handled by existing communications staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS):

TheTimes reported one government source as saying that the consultants had helped her prepare for interviews, assisted with press statements and set up an official government podcast.

Ms Bingham has so far appeared on eight episodes of "Covid-19 The Search for a Vaccine", which has a rating of 4.7 stars on Apple. Its last outing on 26 October considered the issues surrounding human challenge trials.

BEIS did not deny the Times report but made no comment. However, it is understood that Admiral Associates were chosen because of their experience working with healthcare companies, hospitals and universities.

Details of the contract should be published online by the department at a later date.

Ms Bingham is managing director of private equity firm SV Health Investors and the wife of Tory Treasury minister Jesse Norman.

As chair of the taskforce, she is leading the effort to find and manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine.

However, last week it was reported she had shared government plans at a networking event for female financiers in the US.

There really is a need for an inquiry into government procurement processes and spending around this pandemic.
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