Watchdog report

PPE contracts awarded with ‘inadequate’ checks

FFP3 face masks

Government acted quickly to order PPE equipment, but with too few checks

Contracts worth £18 billion for Covid-related goods and services were dished out to companies without sufficient checks, according to the UK government watchdog.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found firms recommended by MPs, peers and ministers’ offices were given priority.

In a damning report it said there was inadequate explanation of key decisions, about why particular suppliers were chosen and not enough done to address potential conflicts of interest.

The government “was procuring large volumes of goods and services at high speed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic”, said the NAO.

According to the NAO’s report, more than 8,600 coronavirus contracts had been awarded by 31 July, ranging in value from less than £100 to £410m.


New contracts worth £17.3bn were awarded to suppliers, of which: £10.5bn were awarded directly without a competitive tender process and companies with no experience supplying PPE won lucrative deals.

The government acknowledged it had procured services with “extreme urgency” due the crisis but defended its actions because of the unprecedented circumstances.

The review found that while there was evidence for most controls being applied, there were some gaps in the documentation, such as why some suppliers which had low due diligence ratings were awarded contracts.

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