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Friday, October 08, 2021

The continuing scandal of government covid contracts

I don't believe that details of the UK Government's independent covid inquiry have yet been announced, but if it does not include a serious and detailsd look at the awarding of contracts for PPE and other essentials then there should be questions as to why not.

The Independent reports on the latest news in this saga, with calls for Boris Johnson’s government to end “secrecy” after it emerged that a Covid contract handed to a Conservative Party donor’s firm is still under wraps after 18 months.

The paper says that Clipper Logistics – whose boss has donated £730,000 to the Tories – secured a deal to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) last year without facing any rival bids, but government figures now show the deal for the firm’s services was renewed at £650,000 a month – which means the contract has cost the taxpayer an estimated £11m.

This firm initially won a three-month government contract worth £1.3m to take responsibility for the delivery of PPE to all NHS Trusts in March 2020. The contract was then extended to £1.95m for another three months, followed by “monthly extensions at estimated values of £650,000”. The government has also confirmed that Clipper Logistics have “distributed all PPE since April 2020”, taking the total value of the contract since last spring to £11m:

Amid an outcry over alleged cronyism, a court ruling in March found that 100 Covid contracts had not yet been released when Mr Johnson told MPs they were “on the record for everyone to see”.

It followed a High Court ruling which found that the government had acted unlawfully by handing out contracts during the pandemic by failing to publish details in a timely way.

Ministers have also faced flak over “eye-watering” levels of waste. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found in July that 2.1 billion items of PPE ntended for the NHS had been deemed unfit.

And last month health minister Lord Bethell admitted the government was in dispute over £1.2bn worth of PPE deemed “substandard” or undelivered.

The Good Law Project campaign group – which has taken legal action in bid to get Lord Bethell’s to hand over phone messages – said the contracts in question amounted to 10 per cent of the money spent on PPE at the peak of the pandemic.

Surely the Covid inquiry must provide clarity and transparency on these dealings.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, claimed that the government did not have time to go through the normal tendering procedure for PPE. However, there was a gap of months between the government's January 2020 decision to let the virus run free and many of the contracts referred to in last year's National Audit Office report.
N.B. Brazil has already had her official Covid-19 inquiry, which will report shortly.

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