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According to documents, Personal Protective Equipment purchased through the ‘VIP lane’ had an average cost increase of 80%.

According to newly released information, personal protective equipment (PPE) purchased by the government from companies recommended through a “VIP lane” by Conservative politicians and officials was, on average, 80% pricier.

The Good Law Project, known for its ongoing examination of PPE contracts during the Covid outbreak, revealed that internal government records indicate a unit price up to four times greater than the average was paid for items under VIP lane agreements.

The company Meller Designs, which was partially owned by Conservative donor David Meller, was brought to attention by the organization for charging high prices for PPE through the VIP lane, with the help of Michael Gove’s office. This company was granted six contracts worth £164m for PPE supplies during the COVID-19 crisis.

Out of the three agreements made with Meller Designs, the government paid a price that was 1.2 to 2.2 times higher than the average cost per unit. While the standard cost for medical gowns was £5.87, the gowns purchased from Meller Designs were priced at £12.64. Additionally, it was discovered that about £8.46m worth of the equipment provided by Meller Designs was not utilized in any NHS setting.

A representative from Meller Designs stated that in March 2020, they reached out to the government and proposed providing PPE to the NHS and other crucial public services.

“We take great pride in our contributions during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. We were able to obtain over 100 million units of essential personal protective equipment, such as masks, hand sanitizers, coveralls, and gloves, directly from the manufacturers. This critical PPE was utilized by hospitals and emergency services across the nation.”

“We were able to utilize our extensive experience in procuring, testing, and maintaining quality control for a variety of products while addressing the national emergency.”

Meller Designs has been operating for over a century, and we can confidently state that this was one of the most challenging and significant contracts we have ever been tasked with. We extend our gratitude to all our fellow colleagues who put in tremendous effort to make it a success.

Responding to the PPE figures, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said: “The British public are sick of being ripped off under the Conservatives. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have been squandered … when it could have been spent in our schools, hospitals and police.

To ensure accountability, Labour plans to assign a commissioner to thoroughly review pandemic contracts and reclaim any funds that were not properly allocated for the benefit of the public.

A representative from the Department of Health and Social Care stated that their main focus during the pandemic was to preserve lives. They took prompt action in obtaining PPE during the peak of the crisis, despite facing intense competition in a global market with a shortage of supply compared to the high demand.

All companies underwent a thorough examination and were subjected to identical checks, according to the spokesperson.

The Conservative member of the House of Lords, Michelle Mone, admitted that it was a mistake to publicly deny her association with a PPE company currently being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Lady Mone and her husband, Douglas Barrowman, recently released a YouTube documentary to defend themselves against accusations, stating that they have done nothing unethical.

Mone had advocated to government officials, such as Michael Gove, and PPE Medpro in order to secure contracts. As a result, the company was able to secure £200m worth of deals for supplying masks and medical gowns. Despite this, her legal team consistently denied any involvement with the company to the Guardian.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is taking legal action against PPE Medpro in order to retrieve the entire amount of £122m that was paid for surgical gowns, which were never utilized. The DHSC alleges that the gowns were not suitable for use in the National Health Service (NHS). PPE Medpro is contesting the accusation.

The National Crime Agency has been carrying out an inquiry into PPE Medpro since May 2021 and it is still ongoing.

Gove stated that he was unable to provide input on issues being investigated by the NCA. However, he emphasized that it was incorrect for anyone to insinuate that government officials were offering special treatment to their connections.

On Sunday, during an interview with Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC, he stated that ministers were not responsible for deciding who received contracts. Instead, teams of civil servants evaluated the suitability of any proposed contracts.

“The suggestion that somehow ministers were seeking to deliberately do favours for or line the pockets of other individuals is totally unjustified because the decisions were only taken after a proper coherent and fair procurement process.”

Source: theguardian.com