Calls for a public enquiry into awards of Covid-related contracts

17 November 2020 — Political Concern

The original brief of this website, set up ten years ago, was to raise awareness of the ‘revolving door’, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding which corrupts the decision-making process here and abroad. There is currently a resurgence of such concerns, expressed here by Professor Prem Sikka and later by Sophie Hill, a PhD student.

On 6th November Professor Prem Sikka wrote an article showing the imperative for a public inquiry into how Covid contracts are handed out.

Two weeks later a Hackney reader sent this link to a Metro article which reported that  Sophie Hill, a British PhD student in Government at Harvard University, had created a ‘My little Crony’ map – snapshot below.

She wrote on Twitter: ‘The cronyism in this Tory government is so out-of-control that I honestly couldn’t keep track… so I combined my two main skills (puns and Rstats) to create this interactive visualisation. ‘We all understand that the Government had to act quickly during the pandemic. But that is no excuse for cronyism and incompetence.’ Government outsourcing during the pandemic.’

To see this in action go to ‘My little Crony’ map

Ms Hill says:

  • The “My Little Crony” interactive map shows that the special, special adviser’s relation. head of the Vaccine Taskforce, Kate Bingham, spent £670,000 of taxpayers’ money hiring PR consultants through a firm called Admiral Associates. And the secretary of the firm is a long-time business associate of chief advisor Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law.
  • it was reported in September that Globus (Shetland) Limited, which has donated more than £400,000 to the Conservatives since 2016, won a £93.8 million Government contract for the supply of respirator face masks.

And ends: ‘I hope people will explore the map and decide for themselves about whether this government is acting in the best interests of the country.’


Professor Sikka says: “Cronyism, corruption, incompetence and inefficiencies have become hallmarks of coronavirus related contracts”.

He records several of the large contracts given to fledgling companies with no experience of PPE, noting that many suppliers had links to donors to the Conservative Party and MPs:

  • Since August 2015, Conservative MP Owen Paterson has been a consultant to Randox receiving £8,333 a month for 16 hours work, which is about 6 months wages for someone on the minimum wage. A £347m Covid-19 testing contract has been given to Randox, whose testing kits were recalled because of concerns about contamination. Was this a coincidence?
  • Meller Designs Limited, a Conservative Party donor, secured a £155m PPE contract.
  • a £3m contract given, without competitive tender, to a company called Topham Guerin. The company’s controllers appear to be friends of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove, two leading powers in the Johnson administration.
  • Leaked documents show that a number of consultants, including Serco, G4s, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young have received test and trace and other contracts. Some are charging £7,000 a day. The firms have no history of delivering test and trace or management of viruses, but still secured multi-million pound Covid-related contracts.

Professor Sikka  notes that the National Audit Office has begun an inquiry into the supply of PPE to the NHS and adult social care sector; he adds that this needs to be supplemented with an examination of all PPE, test and trace contracts. ending:

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee needs to question ministers and senior civil servants about the award of contracts to Tory cronies. This should be followed by an independent public inquiry into every aspect of the government’s shambolic handling of the pandemic, which has led to thousands of avoidable deaths, major damage to the economy and the lives of many.

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