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17th Dec 2020

Companies with no prior experience were awarded £4.5 billion in COVID-19 contracts

Alex Roberts

Jobs for the boys?

Firms with no prior experience were awarded £4.5 billion worth of Covid-19 contracts, according to an analysis published in the New York Times.

The UK government was under intense pressure to obtain sufficient supplies of PPE, ventilators and Covid-19 test kits when the pandemic started to sweep through the country in early 2020.

These supplies were essential for stopping the spread of the virus, but many were critical of the speed with which these items were procured. Over time, questions were also asked about where the supplies were coming from, and more importantly – who was being paid to produce them.

Around £16 billion worth of coronavirus contracts have so far been awarded. (Photo: Getty)

In total, around 1,200 contracts were awarded to firms involved in producing essential supplies. Of the contracts awarded, £4.5 billion went to companies with no prior experience of manufacturing such items. A further £3.7 billion went to firms that have political ties to the Conservative Party, according to the report published in the New York Times.

Three companies in particular were scrutinised, and the figures are alarming.

Well-known financial services firm Deloitte were consulted on PPE matters, in a brief that was not offered to any other company. They have made ‘non-cash donations’ to the Conservatives in the past.

Randox Laboratories were awarded around £475 million to manufacture Covid-19 test kits. Owen Paterson, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, a Tory government minister, is a paid consultant for the firm.

On July 15th 2020, the NHS had to recall a number of Randox Covid-19 test kits due to safety concerns – but have now said they are safe.

Uniserve Group were also paid £736,000 to manufacture PPE. Its founder is a consultant with ties to two ‘prominent government ministers’.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has previously been quizzed over the decision to award the former landlord of his local pub tens of millions of pounds to make Covid-19 test kits.

There were reports that the ex-landlord, a former neighbour of Hancock, was awarded the brief through a simple WhatsApp message.

Hancock denied any involvement, and said the contract went through all the normal procedures.

UPDATE: as of Friday, February 19, 2021, Matt Hancock has been found to have acted ‘unlawfully’ in the procurement of Covid-19 contracts.