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Press release: unacceptable management of Covid contracts

Glenrothes & Central Fife MP Peter Grant has condemned “unacceptably poor” management of UK Government Covid contracts after a cross party committee of MPs found that billions of pounds of public money could be at risk through wastage and fraud.

Mr Grant said the Public Accounts Committee’s latest report into contracts for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has raised concerns that over two years after some contracts were signed there has been very little progress to identify fraudulent suppliers or to resolve disputes over sub standard supplies.

Mr Grant said, “The UK Government estimates that the total cost of PPE contracts is around £13 billion. Several billion of this was for supplies that the Government have now decided they don’t need, with storage costs alone reaching nearly three quarters of a billion pounds – about the same as NHS Fife’s total annual budget. Latest estimates are that around a billion items of PPE will need to be destroyed and in total the Government is in dispute over £2.7 billion of equipment that they claim was substandard.

“Everyone accepts that the Government needed to move very quickly to secure supplies of PPE when the pandemic hit but even the most basic precautions against fraud, corruption and conflicts of interest have not been properly implemented. We’ve seen contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds being awarded without competition to companies who were recommended by MPs or Lords despite only having been set up a few weeks before. How can you carry out checks on a company’s track record when they haven’t even started trading?”

“Even allowing for the exceptional circumstances this is unacceptably poor management of huge sums of public money. What’s even more worrying is that it’s not clear the Government have learned from their mistakes, so if another pandemic struck next year there’s no guarantee their procurement and stock management would be any better.”

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