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THE government faces possible legal action after a former Tory parliamentary candidate was revealed as the contact for a £100 million deal for personal protective equipment (PPE).
The contract to supply face masks was awarded in July 2020 to Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd (PDL) without any competition, though details were not published until March.
PDL’s representative was Samir Jassal, who twice stood as a Conservative candidate at general elections and has met PM Boris Johnson several times.
The Good Law Project, which is investigating how coronavirus contracts were awarded, said that details of the deal were only disclosed after it wrote to ministers.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that due diligence had been carried out on every contract and ministers had no involvement in awarding them.
It added that all contracts were published online, in line with transparency arrangements.
But the BBC reported that even when the £102 million deal was finally published, the contact details for the supplier were blacked out.
However, in what appears to have been a clerical error, a separate document published with the contract gives Mr Jassal’s name as the “supplier’s contact.”
The Good Law Project said it was “seriously and legitimately concerned” that the decision to award the contract had been influenced by the involvement of Mr Jassal, or even that it “unlawfully advantaged” PDL in its discussions with ministers.
Good Law Project director Jolyon Maugham said: “The first lockdown ended in June. How can we still have needed PPE so urgently as to award a vast £100 million-plus PPE contract without any competition in July?
“Could it have something to do with close links to Number 10?”
Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said: “It says everything about the rampant Tory sleaze consuming this government that such a huge conflict of interest was revealed by mistake.
“The government keeps saying that it wants to be transparent on deals — but the redactions on this contract show that this was a deliberate cover-up. They’ve been caught red-handed.”
Mr Jassal said PDL had 20 years’ experience in the healthcare sector and the masks produced met “all technical standards which were rigorously vetted” by the Health and Safety Executive, the DHSC and the NHS.
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