Covid contract scandal: Revelations 'just scratch the surface' of saga

22 November 2021, 16:05 | Updated: 29 November 2021, 13:51

By Seán Hickey

James O'Brien spoke to investigative journalist Richard Brooks on the Covid contract scandal. Watch the full interview here.

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Leaked documents previously revealed the politically-connected companies which made billions from Covid contracts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Richard Brooks of Private Eye joined James O'Brien to detail the extent of the issue.

"This really scratches the surface. We could only find a few from what public information was let out", Mr Brooks, who has written extensively to reveal those who benefitted from deals.

Read more: Covid contracts: Leaked list reveals companies profiting from pandemic

He spoke about Andrew Mills, a former advisor to the Department of Trade, who he alleges "was an agent for Ayanda Capital" who secured a lucrative PPE deal.

"For a few weeks work in securing this deal, pressurising department of health officials to give his firm the contract, he pocketed £32 million" Mr Brooks claimed.

Read more: Publish all talks between ministers and business over Covid contracts, Labour demands

The journalist explained that "next year’s version of these figures could really be eye watering" when more details become known as Britain exits the pandemic.

In evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee, it is said that the National Audit Office assert that Mr Mills did not declare an interest in the PPE deal, despite the PPE supply contracts being facilitated solely by his company, Prospermills Ltd.

In a statement to ITV News last year, Mr Mills said:

"Through a contact in the NHS I was put in touch with the Emergency PPE Procurement Team who immediately directed me to the public portal through which all individuals and businesses had to submit their offers, so as far as we were concerned we went through exactly the same process as every other potential supplier."

"Therefore, there was no conflict of interest or any cronyism. Whether the DHSC should have better documented all this, is clearly a matter that should be put to them."

Read more: Covid: Govt contract for firm run by Cummings' friends was unlawful, High Court rules

"How much of that could you chalk up to urgency and emergency?” James wondered, reminding Mr Brooks that the nation was in a state of emergency at the time.

While acknowledging that "the government was in the ultimate ‘I wouldn’t start from here’ situation", the journalist insisted that contract acquisition "clearly presented a bias towards people with the right connections, usually with Tory parliamentarians or other senior officials."

Read more: Government unlawfully failed to publish Covid contracts, High Court rules

"That needs a really thorough review".

When asked how easy it is to get answers on the Covid contract scandal, Mr Brooks told James O'Brien that about 90% of the detail remains secret.

The Department for Health and Social Care, The Department for International Trade, Ayanda Capital and Andrew Mills' Prospermills Ltd. have all been approached for comment.

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