PPE failings and £4.3bn lost to Covid loan fraud, report shows

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Almost £9billion has been wasted on personal protective equipment, it emerged last night.

In a staggering illustration of Government waste, much of the Covid kit was faulty or not used before its sell-by date.

Ministers also paid hugely over the odds and were left with equipment that later crashed in value. In all, £8.7billion has had to be written off by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The damning revelation comes a week after it emerged that £4.3billion had been lost to coronavirus support loan scams.

The £13billion combined cost to the taxpayer is more than the £12billion expected to be raised each year by April’s planned national insurance hike.

Campaigners and MPs said the write-offs would enrage families facing the tax hike in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

Tory peer Michelle Mone was accused of using her position to help PPE Medpro win a £203m contract, despite her and her billionaire husband having close links to the company

Tory peer Michelle Mone was accused of using her position to help PPE Medpro win a £203m contract, despite her and her billionaire husband having close links to the company

The use of ten million gowns, imported via Miami-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger (pictured with his wife and business partner Rachel Russell), was suspended because officials put the wrong packaging specifications on the contract

The use of ten million gowns, imported via Miami-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger (pictured with his wife and business partner Rachel Russell), was suspended because officials put the wrong packaging specifications on the contract

Among those to make small fortunes from PPE contracts was banker Tim Horlick (pictured with his ex-wife Nicola) who sourced £253million of PPE from Asia after his firm Ayanda was fast-tracked by an adviser to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss

Among those to make small fortunes from PPE contracts was banker Tim Horlick (pictured with his ex-wife Nicola) who sourced £253million of PPE from Asia after his firm Ayanda was fast-tracked by an adviser to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss

Several contracts worth £679million were handed to Anthony Hazell, a 36-year-old from south-east London, despite his background being in interior design

Several contracts worth £679million were handed to Anthony Hazell, a 36-year-old from south-east London, despite his background being in interior design

A nurse at King's College Hospital in London puts on full protective equipment

A nurse at King’s College Hospital in London puts on full protective equipment

How taxpayer cash was thrown away on dodgy PPE deals 

Hedge fund’s masks ‘not tight enough’

Ayanda – £253m

Around 50million FFP2 masks produced by Ayanda, which won deals worth £253million, were not ultimately distributed as they had ear-loops rather than head-loops, meaning they were unlikely to fit tightly enough. 

The company said it delivered according to its contract.

Miami jeweller’s gowns had to be suspended

Saiger LLC – £70m

The use of ten million gowns, imported via Miami-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger, was suspended because officials put the wrong packaging specifications on the contract.

Pest firm’s aprons were the ‘wrong size’

Pestfix – £350m

Officials are locked in a legal battle with Pestfix, a pest control company based in West Sussex, after a batch of tight-fitting FFP3 masks failed quality tests and six million aprons were rejected for use by the NHS because they were the wrong size. 

The company delivered its batch of IIR masks, two million gloves and other products to the contracted standard.

The wasted RAF flight

Selegna – value unknown

At the height of the pandemic an RAF flight was sent to pick up a shipment of 400,000 Turkish gowns, supplied by Selegna, which turned out to be useless.

Baroness Bra in sleaze accusations

PPE Medpro – £203m

Tory peer Michelle Mone has been accused of using her position to help PPE Medpro win a £203million contract, despite her and her billionaire husband having close links to the company.

Case of PPE resold for £5

Clandeboye Agencies – £107.5m

A box of 250 items of PPE produced by Clandeboye Agencies, a sweet wholesaler based in Northern Ireland, cost the taxpayer £1,000 but was resold in an online auction for just £5. 

Clandeboye insisted it delivered what was ordered at a competitive price.

The million-mask recall

Polyco Healthline – £56m

A million masks supplied by Polyco Healthline for intensive care wards had to be recalled because they did meet safety standards. 

Polyco said the product ‘narrowly failed’ because tests were only conducted on men.

Hancock’s boost for furniture maker

Monarch Acoustics – £29m

Matt Hancock, then health secretary, made a series of recommendations to the ‘VIP lane’ for purchasing contracts including Monarch Acoustics, a furniture manufacturer. 

The firm had just £41,000 in the bank before the pandemic, but its £29million PPE contract helped it increase profits by 4,700 per cent. 

There are understood to have been no concerns raised about the quality of the products. 

Pressed in the Commons yesterday over fraud failures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was forced to insist the Government would go after ‘each and every’ suspect.

But Tory backbenchers said the revelations strengthened their opposition to the national insurance increase.

‘The vast amount of money that was wasted on PPE calls into question whether this tax rise is needed,’ said Andrew Bridgen.

‘When we see waste like this, it just proves that public service needs reform, rather than accepting the Blairite narrative that public services need ever more taxpayers’ money. 

‘I will continue to oppose tax rises at a time when the tax burden is the highest since the war, and to call for cutting out waste and inefficiency in the public sector.’

Wes Streeting, Labour’s health spokesman, said: ‘This is a shocking and inexcusable level of waste that could have been put to far better use in hospitals and care homes that are understaffed and overstretched. Money has been poured down the drain at a time when a record six million are on NHS waiting lists.’

Lib Dem health spokesman Daisy Cooper said the Government was ‘inept’, adding: ‘They cannot be trusted with our money and are totally out of touch.’

The official report reveals the Department of Health spent £12.1billion on PPE in the first year of the pandemic – from April 2020 to April 2021 – but £8.7billion was wasted. 

It estimated that £673million went on equipment found to be totally unusable, and £750million on items that were not used before their expiry dates.

Nearly £2.6billion was spent on ‘items not suitable for use in the NHS,’ while £111.5million was lost through transport delays. Two flights from China had to be cancelled due to lack of stock availability but the Government still paid the £649,000 deposit to the airlines.

Another £4.7billion was lost due to the decrease in value of the PPE stockpile after initial demand – and high prices – subsided. The report said it had ‘left the Department open to the risk of fraud’ and ‘unable to cope’.

Other PPE problems included failed quality tests, face masks ordered with the wrong loops and gowns that were the wrong size or sent in the wrong packaging.

Further losses recorded in the report include £1.1million on an undelivered order for ventilators ‘which did not fully meet functionality requirements at the time’.

The analysis from Gareth Davies, auditor general to the House of Commons, acknowledged that Whitehall was put under ‘extraordinary pressure’ by the pandemic. 

But he said that it ‘was not able to manage adequately some of the elevated risks, resulting in significant losses for the taxpayer’.

Among those to make small fortunes from PPE contracts was banker Tim Horlick who sourced £253million of PPE from Asia after his firm Ayanda was fast-tracked by an adviser to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Pest control firm Pestfix, whose owner Dan England was dubbed the ‘bird repeller’, had just £18,000 in the bank when it scooped a £348million contract for PPE.

Several contracts worth £679million were handed to Anthony Hazell, a 36-year-old from south-east London, despite his background being in interior design.

The Daily Mail’s historic Mail Force campaign played a crucial role in the crisis by delivering much-needed PPE to the front line as care home staff and hospitals struggled to get supplies.

The Department of Health defended its PPE strategy last night, saying: ‘The supply of these vital items helped keep our NHS open at a moment of national crisis to deliver a world-class service to the public. We are seeking to recover costs from suppliers wherever possible.’

Pressed in the Commons yesterday over fraud failures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) was forced to insist the Government would go after 'each and every' suspect

Pressed in the Commons yesterday over fraud failures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) was forced to insist the Government would go after ‘each and every’ suspect

Wes Streeting, Labour's health spokesman, said: 'This is a shocking and inexcusable level of waste that could have been put to far better use in hospitals and care homes that are understaffed and overstretched'

Wes Streeting, Labour’s health spokesman, said: ‘This is a shocking and inexcusable level of waste that could have been put to far better use in hospitals and care homes that are understaffed and overstretched’

Officials stressed that the bulk of the losses were due to the fall in value of PPE following the height of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It’s important to note that our priority during a pandemic is to save lives – that was the case at the start of this coronavirus outbreak.

‘We were acting in a highly competitive global market with many countries imposing export bans and obviously we were seeking to secure PPE for frontline clinicians.

‘We know that global prices have understandably shifted substantially throughout the pandemic with the market now returning to business as usual and so the value of goods (is) becoming lower.

‘So for example we now estimate the value of aprons that we purchased is a third of what we paid during the height of the pandemic. Our approach was justified because it was necessary to get those aprons and other important pieces of PPE to the front line.’

Meanwhile, MPs on the all-party parliamentary group for coronavirus were yesterday told the Government was fleeced by ‘cowboy’ PCR test providers who inflated prices during the pandemic. 

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