The strands of Tory corruption are converging in this revelation.
Details have – unintentionally – come to light of a contract granted to a firm after the Tory government bypassed the competitive tendering system, showing that it happened after lobbying by a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate with strong links to 10 Downing Street.
There are several elements of note here:
Firstly, these details would not have been available if the Good Law Project had not proven in court that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had broken the law by withholding details of contracts with private firms.
The contract had been signed in July last year, but details were not published until March – after Hancock lost the court case. Even then, the names of those involved were blacked out.
Information showing that former Tory councillor, Parliamentary candidate and Downing Street advisor Samir Jassal was the supplier’s “contact” only came to light via a second document in which his name was listed, apparently after the government had failed to black it out.
Secondly, this is further evidence of members of the Conservative Party lobbying the Conservative government on behalf of private business, and (apparently) being granted exclusive access, similar to the way David Cameron lobbied the government on behalf of Greensill Capital.
Thirdly, we should be asking how this company came to bid for a £102.6 million contract to provide PPE to the NHS. Did it use the exclusive contact system that had been devised for friends and donors to the Conservative Party – the so-called “high priority lane”?
The government has refused to say whether this contract was processed as part of this system, which tends to indicate that it was (if it wasn’t, there would be no incentive to deny it).
Fourthly, the firm, Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd, had won a £28 million contract previously. How was that arranged? Was Mr Jassal involved? Did the firm use the “friends and donors” route then, as well?
Remember: both deals were awarded to the firm without any competition.
Finally: was the contract honoured? Contracts signed by the government with Tory friends and donors, especially in the early days of the crisis, had an appalling tendency to go unfulfilled because the firms had no experience in providing the equipment.
Admittedly, a firm called Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd, which I understand was formed in 1999 to provide wholesale distribution of medical material, seems likely to be able to provide the contracted gear. But in the light of other revelations, we need to see proof.
Taken as a whole, this seems to be further proof that the Tories have corruptly – if not illegally – used a national emergency as a pretext for diverting public funds to their friends, donors and party members. Doesn’t it?
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