You may remember the tale of the jeweller from Florida and the Spanish intermediary who profited to the tune of tens of millions of pounds from vast PPE contracts, paid for with taxpayers’ money. Well, there have been developments.
Government continues to fail to publish details of contracts within the legally required timeframe, but we have learned of another contract it entered into with the jeweller Saiger, worth £36 million, for face masks.
The contract was for FFP2 masks – which protect the wearer, unlike the ones we all wear to the supermarket. But to protect the wearer they need to be adjustable – which means headstraps – and all of these masks have ‘earloops’. Earloop masks, Government has admitted in other cases, can’t be used in the NHS because they don’t give a proper fixing. We expect these £36 million of masks will also be unusable.
Not only did Government buy PPE that can’t be used. It also appears to have paid well over the odds. For one type of mask, Government paid $2.93 per unit. The prevailing price paid by Government at the time it entered into the contract was about 60p per unit: more PPE, paid for at a premium, that can’t be used by the NHS.
But that’s not all.
Saiger was awarded a contract worth £70.52 million to buy 10.2 million sterile surgical gowns. We are challenging this particular contract in court. Almost all of the gowns supplied under that £70m+ contract are unable to be used as such because they are wrapped in such a way that their sterile quality can’t be maintained.
At this stage, you might be wondering: shouldn’t a responsible Government just put up its hands and say “we got this wrong”?
Instead, it is spending, quite literally, millions in public funds trying to defend the indefensible. And what we want to know is, who is this spending for – is it in your interests? Or is it to avoid political embarrassment? If you would like to support our attempts to deliver transparency, you can donate to the legal challenge here.
Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project