Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

Posted on 26 November 2020 at 13:27 GMT

PPE contracts: It pays to have friends in high places

  (Click to enlarge)

Simon Carter

At the start of the Covid pandemic, the Tory government - having ignored NHS contingency planning and failed to stockpile sufficient PPE for health and care workers - was obliged to play catch-up when thousands of frontline workers and vulnerable people were cut down by the virus.

But instead of implementing a transparent public procurement plan, Johnson's hapless government, using secret contracts, threw huge sums of money at dubious businesses, whose sole qualification was being chums with ministers. On 18 March, the Cabinet Office gave the go-ahead to departments and public bodies to award PPE contracts, no questions asked.

According to the National Audit Office (NAO) that examined this arrangement, some 18 billion was dished out from the public purse, with 10.5 billion of these contracts escaping any usual public procurement scrutiny. When quizzed about these dubious contracts, Boris Johnson retorted that he is "very proud with what's been achieved". Presumably, this 'pride' includes overspending on PPE procurement by a staggering 10 billion, according to the NAO. Moreover, much of the PPE ordered still hasn't been delivered, and much of what has is unusable!

Like the earlier Brexit ferries contract scandal, shell companies sprung up like flowers after summer rain. Health minister Matt Hancock's department awarded the majority of these contracts but insists the contracts were subject to "due diligence".

However, in one contract, 253 million was bunged to Ayanda Capital for face masks, despite having no experience of PPE and the price being nearly double the going rate. To cap it all, the masks were of the wrong design! It's reported that the contract was brokered by an Ayanda associate who had until recently been an advisor to Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

In another contract, P14 Medical - a small, loss-making company run by then Stroud Tory councillor Steve Dechan - received a 156 million contract to import PPE, without any public tendering.

The Cabinet Office also bunged 1.5 million to two New Zealand social media consultants who had worked on Boris Johnson's 2019 election campaign. Similarly, contracts were awarded to two former aides to minister Michael Gove; and 3 million was handed over to an AI company that had worked with Boris Johnson's former senior advisor Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave referendum campaign.

It's also been revealed that a friend and former neighbour of health secretary Matt Hancock, with no previous experience of producing medical supplies, was awarded a contract to produce medical vials and plastic funnels by the health department. And the list goes on.

The NAO found that suppliers designated 'high priority' that enjoyed political connections, were ten times more likely to get PPE contracts than those that didn't.

Now, Chancellor Rishi Sunak says the public purse can't afford to give many frontline public sector workers a pay rise for years to come. Maybe teachers, local authority workers and civil servants, etc, should become consultants or PPE companies, then they can expect a large cheque in the post!

NHS medical supplies - privatised failure

The government's PPE contracts scandal underscores what happens to public services when the market place and for-profit companies take over.

The NHS supplies service used to be publicly owned and run before the Blair Labour government privatised NHS Logistics in 2006. Unfortunately, the Prentis-led Unison trade union at the time ignored the interests and demands of its members in NHS Logistics to organise national strike action to defend the service.

Consequently, the privatised supplies organisation has been broken up and fragmented among a myriad of private companies, usually with no experience in medical supplies.

As an NHS supply chain worker told the Socialist in April this year: "Now the decisions are profit-driven, with much less medical input in the procurement and tendering process. This is partly why the quality of the PPE getting through to frontline staff has been so poor."

The medical supply chain must be nationalised and fully reintegrated back into the NHS, under democratic workers' control and management.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


Related links:


triangleSelling the Socialist

triangleTories responsible for NHS staff shortages

triangleMidwives march against unsafe staffing and for adequate funding

triangleWorkers' action can defeat weak and divided Tories

triangleHealth and care staff shortages worsened by Tory vaccine sacking threat


triangleTories to blame for GP crisis

triangleKeep private hands off NHS patient data

triangleWomen's health matters

triangleTory consultation on home-use abortion pills


triangleSupport uni workers' walk-out on pay and pensions

triangleHistoric victory of India's farmers

triangleThe struggle for accessible workplaces and an inclusive society


triangleSlough: Adult service cuts will leave vulnerable homeless

triangleSudan: "Hamdok has sold the revolution!"


triangleDVLA ballot turnout falls short of threshold


triangleTesting is failing - it's a privatised mess

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Workers' action can defeat weak and divided Tories


Violence against women

End sexism and violence against women



The struggle for accessible workplaces and an inclusive society



Cricket's history of racism and elitism



Working class strangled by price rises and pay cuts



HS2 eastern route cancelled: Fight for a workers' plan for public transport



Tories hammer nail in pensions triple lock coffin



Tories responsible for NHS staff shortages



Tory sleaze scandal continues, an ex-workers' MP responds


Climate change

Youth fight for well-paid green jobs and socialist change



Cuts drag NHS to brink



NHS workers must take action now to save our NHS



Outsourced Barts health workers in strike ballot for a pay rise



Health and care staff shortages worsened by Tory vaccine sacking threat



London MPs' second home swindle while workers and students struggle

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021