Do connections mean contracts?
The sudden onset of the pandemic has forced the government to act quickly on many issues. A special pandemic procurement policy means the government can award contracts that are urgently needed to reduce the risk to peoples health. However, there have been many critics of the way the department of health and social care have dished out these lucrative contracts. Analysis by the New York Times suggests around half of the companies receiving contracts have an unscrupulous past, no prior experience or political affiliation. This has led to many claims of ‘cronyism’ within the department. The government deny any wrongdoing and there is no evidence the law was broken.
Our DoordaProcurement product allows us to see which companies are being awarded these emergency contracts. We can then join this information to DoordaBiz to dig deeper into the company and even find who the directors are. Here we will investigate 2 contract-winning companies.
In total, P14 Medical won contracts worth over £270 million to provide P.P.E. to the NHS. None of these were open for competition. By joining to DoordaBiz by P14 Medicals company number we can find the owners and directors.
Stephan Dechan is the owner of P14 Medical and a former conservative councillor on Stroud town council. He has denied claims that his political association gave him an advantage in securing these contracts and that they were given ‘on merit’, despite P14 reporting serious losses in 2019.
Meller Designs is a home and beauty distributor who won 6 contracts worth over £160 million to provide P.P.E. to the NHS. All were awarded without a call for competition.
A quick search of the company number in DoordaBiz and we can find the directors. Their co-founder David Meller has donated £65,000 to the conservative party over the past decade, including Michael Gove’s leadership campaign in 2016, who is now head of the department responsible for PPE procurement.
Both the government and Meller Designs denied any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for Meller Designs said: “We are extremely proud of the role we played at the height of the crisis and managed to secure more than 150million items of PPE.”
Cause for concern?
During the peak of the pandemic in March 2020, the government were under huge amounts of pressure to deliver P.P.E. to protect frontline workers. Prime Minister Boris Johnson even said the country was on a “war footing”. The use of emergency contracts with no public competition was undoubtedly necessary to secure scarce stock as quickly as possible. But did the government put companies with political association above those with a proven track record? According to a New York Times analysis around half of the released contracts had government ties and with around half of these emergency contracts still not made publicly visible, there could be many more to follow.