Covid contracts: Leaked list reveals companies profiting from pandemic

16 November 2021, 12:27 | Updated: 16 November 2021, 16:13

Open Democracy investigates Covid contracts

By Emma Soteriou

Leaked documents have revealed the politically-connected companies which have made billions from Covid contracts throughout the pandemic.

It's reported that 47 companies collectively got billions in contracts due to their connections to the Government, with the 'VIP lane' allowing ministers and MPs to recommend firms during the crisis.

The leaked list, first published by Politico, revealed the companies and who in the Government referred them.

The list suggests former Health Secretary Matt Hancock helped secure work for four firms while former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings helped one.

Andrew Feldman, who was called in to help with the health department during the pandemic, helped secure PPE contracts with a further three companies.

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A Government spokesperson said: "At the height of the pandemic there was a desperate need for PPE to protect health and social care staff and the Government rightly took swift and decisive action to secure it. 

"Ministers were not involved in awarding contracts."

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said he was grateful for everyone who helped procure PPE in a global emergency, as part of the national effort which undoubtedly saved lives.

Contracts awarded through the High Priority List delivered 5 billion items of life-saving PPE, they said.

It was also confirmed that Mr Hancock passed on the offers to civil service officials in line with standard protocols.

Offers directed to MPs and civil servants were directed to a central point where they were subsequently triaged.

All contracts went through the same process - including price controls, quality checks and other due diligence - as part of the normal procurement process for times of emergency.

James O'Brien ponders Covid contracts

Speaking to James O'Brien, openDemocracy's Peter Geoghegan explained the scale of the amounts made by firms, using public money.

He said: “What’s interesting about this list is that it tells you who was the source of referral and the actual referrer.

“Almost all of them are either MPs, in the House of Lords or significant Government people who are doing this.

“Clearly, your connection into politics can deliver huge, huge politics.”

He went on to say: "There’s money that’s being made at various ends of this. The sums involved are just so huge - £250 million, £500 million.

"These are the sums that could do huge amounts of good in terms of public money."

With the state of emergency during the pandemic, James said: "If I knew you had experience in this field, and we were mates, and I thought well, we haven't go time to jump through all the usual there some form of defence there?"

"What’s striking is this continued for months, even years into the pandemic. We were outsourcing our test and trace well into this year," Mr Geoghegan said.

"It is not something that just happened in the first few months of the pandemic, in which it was all chaos and craziness, this was continued across the pandemic. I think that’s a huge and really important part of this.

He added: "At the root of this is that the best thing to do this wasn’t to pay through the Government, it wasn’t down to the state, it was to pay private companies to deliver it."