The Financial Times reported on 29 November that:
“The U.K. has spent more money fighting Coronavirus than almost all comparable countries but still languishes towards the bottom of league tables of economic performance in 2020 and deaths caused by the virus”.
Why is this?
The government appears to be semi-detached from the rest of us, out of touch with the ordinary realities of life. Even the Christmas regulations look to be designed for Home Counties Tory voters. Rishi Sunak envisages clawing back billions from ordinary people once the pandemic is over, yet we paid over the odds for undocumented contracts to associates of government ministers and Tory MPs’, including Matt Hancock’s next door neighbour. One rule for the entitled, another for the rest of us.
The Audit Commission report on the procurement of PPE on 26 November is balanced but still criticises the government for lack of transparency and due diligence. It says:
“We looked in detail at a sample of contracts selected on a risk basis. Although we found sufficient documentation for a number of procurements in our sample, we also found specific examples where there is insufficient documentation on key decisions, or how risks such as perceived or actual conflicts of interest have been identified or managed. In addition, a number of contracts were awarded retrospectively, or have not been published in a timely manner. This has diminished public transparency, and the lack of adequate documentation means we cannot give assurance that government has adequately mitigated the increased risks arising from emergency procurement or applied appropriate commercial practices in all cases. While we recognise that these were exceptional circumstances, there are standards that the public sector will always need to apply if it is to maintain public trust.”
The Audit Commission also published a damning report into PPE supply on 25 November. It stated amongst other things that:
“Government has budgeted an unprecedented £15 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy PPE for England during 2020-21. It has paid very high prices given the very unusual market conditions, and hundreds of millions of pounds-worth of PPE will not be used for the original intended purpose.”
Further it reported that of the 493 suppliers considered, 144 came from:
“ … the private offices of ministers, including referrals from MPs who had gone to ministers with a possible manufacturer in their constituency and where private individuals had written to the minister or the private office with offers of help.”
So the government was giving PPE contracts to spouses of Tory MPs, or family friends of Boris Johnson or Dominic Cummings. Often to people with no relevant experience. The Audit Commission reported that the £18 billion in contracts were awarded, with insufficient documentation on key decisions and how conflicts of interest were managed.
Government is now seen by the public as a gravy train for hangers on, or as the Audit Commission put it:
“ … we have received over 20 pieces of correspondence from members of the public and members of Parliament raising concerns about the transparency of contracts being awarded during the pandemic, potential bias or conflicts of interest in the procurement process, and that some contracts may have been given to unsuitable suppliers.”
Insiders had a special VIP channel so that associates of Tory MPs and peers could access such contracts much more easily.
The corruption goes on…
But it does not stop there. According to Yorkshire Live, Shipley, Wakefield, Ashford, Knaresborough and Selby and Ainsty Conservative Associations have all received thousands in Covid cash bailouts, as have controversially numerous fox and stag hunting groups. All from tax payers’ money.
And when supporting struggling sports with funding, it is the likes of horse racing and rugby that are first in line. The pattern is consistent – exploit the crisis for the benefit of Boris Johnson’s entitled cronies.
Remember this is a government that was reluctant to provide meals for vulnerable hungry children.
What has this corrupt system delivered?
If this way of granting contracts was delivering the goods and saving lives, as Boris Johnson claims, then there might be some excuse. But we now have 60,000+ dead from Covid, largely within the vulnerable and deprived communities and the elderly. Deaths that could have been reduced, even avoided.
Also 600 NHS workers have died but there will be no public enquiry to discover if failures of PPE were responsible. More thought seems to have gone into seizing the opportunities to make money out of the pandemic, than to protecting the vulnerable and NHS staff. This does raise profound questions about the moral compass of this government and a political party that supports them in Parliament.
Are they in office to work for the British people, to care for and support them, or to encourage their friends and families to make fortunes out of the greatest epidemic to hit this country in a hundred years?
It looks like ordinary people will be paying off this £18 billion for years to come in reduced services and cut backs. In the meantime, the government’s family and friends, will sit back and enjoy their Covid-deal bonanzas.