Investigations by Private Eye Magazine have further uncovered the wasteful way in which the UK Tory Government awarded Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) contracts.
In 2020, the UK Government Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) paid £600 million of taxpayers’ money to Unispace Global Ltd – an interior design company - to manufacture PPE masks, gloves and overalls.
A Freedom of Information request reveals that while the so-called “VIP lane” contracts were entirely concluded and fulfilled in 2020, the interior designer’s accounts over that year report a mere turnover of £64 million, solely generated by interior design.
By failing to declare this £600 million income, the interior design company entirely avoids paying tax over that amount.
In addition, Private Eye noted the huge overpayments the Tory Government made on similar PPE items, compared to the much lower amounts, fairly negotiated by the SNP Government.
This discrepancy can only in part be explained by the fact that the SNP Government and Scottish Enterprise proactively visited factories to check product quality and then actively pursued manufacturing in Scotland, which not only led to lower costs but also provided employment and high quality PPE equipment.
Private Eye reported the following figures as examples of the DHSC’s overspend:
IIR face masks: NHS Scotland 31p DHSC 40p (29% more)
FFPIII face masks: NHS Scotland £2.08 DHSC £2.51 (21% more)
Disposable gloves: NHS Scotland 9p DHSC 12p (33% more)
Disposable aprons: NHS Scotland 3p DHSC 5p (67% more)
Non-sterile gowns: NHS Scotland £4.18 DHSC £4.50 ( 8% more)
Auditors Scotland covered the period from January 2020 to March 2021, the National Audit Office which looks at England, covered February 2020 to July 2020.
The National Audit Office reported a loss of £8.7 billion of the £12.1 billion of PPE equipment purchased by the Tory Government in 2021.
£3.3 billion of this had been wasted on equipment that was either entirely unusable or not suitable for those purposes.
Kenneth Gibson MSP commented:
“These investigations by Private Eye have laid bare the vast lengths the Tory Government has gone through to turn the COVID-19 pandemic into a moneymaking scheme for their supporters, donors and business partners.
“What makes this particularly heartbreaking is that these dodgy deals were made over the backs of those in need of proper PPE equipment to protect themselves and each other, to care for COVID patients, and to help save lives.
“It is high time this Tory Government is held to account for misspending billions of public money on the utterly questionable company they keep."
Chartered accountants consulted by Private Eye have described the omission of the £600 million in Unispace Global Ltd’s accounts as "inexplicable"; and said they could see "no legitimate reason" why this should be the case.
In January, the High Court ruled that the Tory Government’s operation of a “VIP lane” for suppliers of personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic was illegal.