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Sunday, January 31, 2021

More contracts for Tory donors and colleagues

There are two articles in the Byline Times from a couple of days ago, highlighting once more, very expensive government contracts being awarded to Tory donors and colleagues.

The first of these is a claim that a firm that has donated more than £240,000 to the Conservative Party has won Government deals worth £2.5 million during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Since April 2020, ANS Group has been awarded four contracts for the supply of IT “cloud” services to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England. ANS Group appears to be providing services to host and maintain the Government’s COVID-19 contact tracing app, launched last September, seemingly working in conjunction with Amazon Web Services.

In addition, ANS claims that it is working with Microsoft and the ‘Test and Trace’ programme to “help local authorities identify and contain potential outbreaks in places such as workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools”.

The Byline Times says the firm was founded – and is owned – by a Scott Fletcher, a Conservative Party donor:

Fletcher founded ANS in 1996 and it is claimed that the company was one of the UK’s “early movers in cloud computing”. While he resigned his ANS directorship in 2016, Fletcher is the owner of Project Daytona Limited, which owns ANS’ parent company, Project Daytona Bidco Limited.

The latest company accounts for ANS Group, for the period up to 31 March 2019, state that the “ultimate and controlling parent” for Project Daytona Limited, and by virtue ANS Group, is a firm called Lowry Trading Limited.

Since 2014, Lowry Trading Limited has donated £240,500 to the Conservative Party. This includes £25,000 to the central party in 2014, £25,000 in 2016, £50,000 in 2017, £37,000 in 2018, £100,000 in 2019 and £3,500 to the local Broxstowe Conservative Party in the same year.

It should be noted that unlike many other deals awarded during the Coronavirus pandemic – which have been given out without competition – the contracts awarded to ANS Group functioned through a framework agreement. This is effectively a shortlist of firms, selected through competition, that are able to bid for Government contracts in a certain field.

The second story states that a private equity firm run by a colleague of ‘Test and Trace’ boss Baroness Dido Harding, who has personally donated nearly £700,000 to the Conservative Party in recent years, has seen one of its businesses awarded at least £5.9 million in Government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic – potentially stretching to £8.4 million:

Oluwole ‘Wol’ Kolade is the managing partner of Livingbridge, a global investment company that in 2019 logged revenues of £20 million. Kolade is listed by Companies House as the one “persons with significant control” of Livingbridge EP LLP.

Since 2002, Kolade has made more than 20 personal donations to the Conservative Party, amounting to £678,000. This has included a £10,000 donation in 2019 to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, and donations amounting to £39,854 this year – while one of his firms was receiving Government contracts.

Kolade is also a member of the elite Conservative ‘Leader’s Group‘ dining society – that provides access to senior Tory politicians for large donations. Kolade was one of the most prolific attendees of Leader’s Group meetings between 2013 and 2018, according to openDemocracy, attending 13 events. Membership of this group allowed Kolade to have a private dinner with former Prime Minister Theresa May.

There is of course no suggestion of impropriety in any of these matters. It is estimated that Government contracts worth £2.1 billion have been awarded to Conservative donors and advisors during the Coronavirus pandemic. The contracts have ranged from the procurement of personal protective equipment, to the delivery of testing services and market research.

Such a coincidence cries out for greater transparency and accountability on government procurement during this pandemic and including details as to what processes have been used.
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