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Latest 14 February 2022

NEW: Leaked emails reveal Government officials manipulated VIP lane data after NAO investigation

Paper letterheads from the Department of Health & Social Care

New leaked emails seen by Good Law Project suggest that senior officials at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Cabinet Office knew that many more PPE suppliers were given the VIP treatment than the 47 names they reported to the National Audit Office (NAO).

In November 2020, the NAO published its investigation into Government procurement during the pandemic. A week after the NAO report was released, the Government’s Chief Commercial Officer Gareth Rhys Williams emailed the senior civil servants responsible for PPE procurement asking them to provide data on these VIPs, with a plea at the end of the message that the data “should total to the NAO PPE Spend numbers…..pls”.

The following morning, on 3 December 2020, the Director of PPE Procurement forwarded Rhys Williams’ email onto civil servants, asking: “Can you pls assist with the below request and calculate the spend with the VIP suppliers (see excel in attached email), in comparison to that with the non-VIP suppliers. And ensure the total adds to the numbers reported in the NAO reports?”

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The demand that the VIP data match the data referred to in the NAO report caused dismay among civil servants. They seem to have been told to manipulate their data after the fact so that it matched what was given to the NAO. We’ve seen emails that suggest civil servants believed the figures supplied to the NAO may have been made up. We want to know the full story and understand what really happened.

We also want to know how the Government arrived at the figures they supplied to the NAO. The leaked VIP spreadsheet shows that the names of 21 VIP companies were not given to the NAO, 18 of which were only revealed by us last week.

Those 18 VIPs were collectively awarded £984 million in PPE contracts after receiving VIP treatment. 

In total, the 68 VIPs uncovered so far have been awarded £4.9 billion in PPE contracts, all without competition. This goes far beyond the figure the Government gave the NAO

On Friday night, following our latest investigation, the DHSC quietly snuck out an update on its website  to include one more VIP: a company called Technicare Ltd, trading as Blyth Group, were handed a PPE contract after a referral from the office of Gavin Williamson MP. 

Good Law Project approached the DHSC and Cabinet Office for comment, but both said they won’t comment on leaked information.

A copy of the emails can be seen here.

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