The UK government has said it awarded a £122m contract to supply PPE to the NHS to a company run by a former associate of Baroness Mone without going out to tender because it was required urgently.
PPE Medpro was awarded the contract just over a month after the company was started by Anthony Page on the day he quit as the secretary of MGM Media, which manages the Tory peer’s “brand” and receives her TV, book and speaking income.
Mr Page is also a director of finance firm Knox Group, founded by Baroness Mone’s fiance, Doug Barrowman.
The contract to supply 25 million gowns for health workers was awarded by the Department of Health and Social Care in June without being advertised to other bidders.
Public contracts are usually made with a prior publication for a “call for competition” in the Official Journal of the European Union.
But papers relating to the contract state that the Department for Health and Social Care felt that there was justification because of the urgency of the need due to the pandemic.
Papers relating to the contract said that due to the “urgency of the situation there was no time to run an accelerated procurement under the open, restricted or competitive procedures with negotiation that would allow DHSC to secure delivery of products, particularly in light of the corresponding delays to timelines associated with securing supply of the PPE equipment.”
Excerpt from the contract explainer
It said: In March the NHS experienced severe shortages of PPE, modelling based the trajectory of other European countries forecast the need for significant and extremely rapid increase in the UK PPE capacity.
“Similar shortfalls in PPE stocks were identified globally. There was immense demand for PPE, requiring the UK government to actively seek and create new supply chains rapidly to meet that demand.
“In these circumstances, a procurement following the usual timescales…including accelerated options, was impossible. PPE manufacturers and supply chains were under immediate and unprecedented global pressure to provide products.
“A delay in engaging with the market by running a usual procurement process ran the risk of failing to acquire the necessary stock of PPE equipment and presenting a significant risk to life.”
It said that the European Commission itself confirmed: “The current coronavirus crisis presents an extreme and unforeseeable urgency – precisely for such a situation our European rules enable public buyers to buy within a matter of days, even hours, if necessary.”
The explainer added: “DHSC has not caused or contributed to the coronavirus crisis, which justifies the need for extreme urgency.”
A spokeswoman for Baroness Mone said that she had no comment as she has no role or involvement in PPE Medpro.
The spokeswoman added: “Mr Barrowman is also not involved in the company PPE Medpro and is not a Director or Shareholder.”
A spokesman for Mr Barrowman has confirmed that Anthony Page and Voirrey Coole are directors of Knox House Trust, which “provides Corporate Services and Trust Services to hundreds of clients”.
His spokesman added: “He cannot comment on the individual client entities.”
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing and the Department of Health said: “Due diligence is carried out for all government contracts.”