The story behind the government's £252m contract for facemasks the NHS can't use

6 August 2020, 12:28 | Updated: 6 August 2020, 12:48

By Adrian Sherling

Jolyon Maugham told James O'Brien the story behind the government's £252million contract to purchase facemasks for the NHS that can't be used.

The government signed a deal in April with Ayanda Capital to purchase additional PPE for the NHS, but the facemasks included will not be used due to safety concerns.

The masks, which use ear-loop fastenings rather than head loops, may not fit tightly enough, the government said.

But that only tells half the story. Jolyon Maugham has been challenging the government over the way the contracts were handed out.

Mr Maugham said: "One of the contracts for £252million was given to the vehicle of someone called Andrew Mills. He set up a company called ProsperMill for £100. That £100 company was about to be given a £252million contract for PPE.

"In fact, he asked for it to be placed with a family fund company called Ayanda Capital, which is owned through a tax haven in Mauritius.

Jolyon Maugham told James O'Brien of his investigation into the contract
Jolyon Maugham told James O'Brien of his investigation into the contract. Picture: LBC

"The contract was for two types of masks. The £160m they spent on FFP2 masks, even they now admit cannot be used by the NHS. The other £90m-worth of masks isn't much better. They are sitting in a warehouse and the government hasn't tested them yet.

"So this is an extraordinary story of public waste."

James pointed out that Mr Mills is also an advisor for the Department of Trade.

James O'Brien heard about the contract given out for PPE
James O'Brien heard about the contract given out for PPE. Picture: LBC / PA

Mr Mills says he had been finalising his appointment as an advisor to Ayanda when he made the offer, but that he "informed the Health Department of the intention to contract through Ayanda as soon as he was in a position to do so."

Mr Horlick, who runs Ayanda, told The Times he did not believe that Mr Mills’ role as an adviser for the government “had any influence whatsoever” on winning the contract and said he believed there “seemed to be an extremely rigorous and professionally run procurement process”.

Ayanda Capital Limited said: "The masks supplied went through a rigorous technical assurance programme and meet all the requirements of the technical specifications which were made available online through the government's portal.

"There are provisions in our contract for product to be rejected if it did not meet the required specification as per the contract. These provisions have not been activated."

A government statement said: "Throughout this global pandemic, we have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect people on the frontline.

"Over 2.4 billion items have been delivered, and more than 30 billion have been ordered from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply, which meets the needs of health and social care staff both now and in the future.

"There is a robust process in place to ensure orders are of high quality and meet strict safety standards, with the necessary due diligence undertaken on all government contracts."

Hear Mr Maugham's full story at the top of the page.