Government paid firm linked to Tory peer £122m for PPE bought for £46m | Health policy

The PPE the government bought for £122m from a company linked to Tory peer Michelle Mone was bought from the Chinese manufacturer for just £46m.

The extraordinary profits apparently made by PPE Medpro and its supply chain partners are revealed in documents leaked to the Guardian, including contracts and an inspection report of sterile surgical gowns supplied by the company.

Although purchased at the start of the pandemic and delivered in 2020, the 25m gowns were never used by the NHS after government officials rejected them following an inspection.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been seeking for months to recover the Medpro PPE money through a mediation process. The company claims it is entitled to keep the money, arguing that DHSC “agents” approved the gowns after inspection.

Medpro’s PPE contract for the supply of sterile 25m surgical gowns was one of two awarded to the company after being processed through a government “VIP lane” for politically connected companies.

The company first entered the government’s priority lane after Mone contacted two cabinet ministers – Michael Gove and Theodore Agnew – in May 2020 to say the PPE could come from “my team in Hong Kong”.

Documents leaked to the Guardian shed light on the dresses being produced by a company in China, Wujiang Tutaike Textile and Finishing Co Ltd, as well as the apparent cost price paid.

Two contracts concluded by Medpro PPE supply chain intermediaries with the Wujiang company suggest that it supplied all of the 25m gowns. The total price paid was $60.35 million, which at the time was equivalent to around £46 million.

It suggests that PPE Medpro and three intermediary companies shared up to £76million in profits – possibly less shipping and other logistics costs.

A spokesperson for PPE Medpro argued that the company saved the government money, given the prices it was paying for PPE at the time.

“The supply chain was important, involving the procurement team, manufacturers, sterilization plants, packaging, quality assurance teams, logistics, finance and much more,” they said. declared. “This global team of people and companies worked 24/7 to deliver PPE to the frontlines to save lives.”

In January, the Guardian revealed that a series of leaked files appeared to show Mone and her husband, Isle of Man financier Douglas Barrowman, were secretly involved in the affairs of PPE Medpro. The leak included WhatsApp messages from June 2020 in which Mone, texting from a private jet, appears to be discussing the required sizes of the dresses and details regarding the DHSC’s order form or “PO” process.

Lawyers representing Mone said the Guardian’s reporting was “entirely based on guesswork and speculation and not accuracy”. They repeatedly said she “was not connected with PPE Medpro in any capacity”, had no “association” with the company and “never had any role or function” in the process. awarding of contracts to the company.

Barrowman’s lawyers also removed him from PPE Medpro, but they did not deny that he benefited financially from the company’s activities.

House of Lords standards commissioner Martin Jelley is investigating whether Mone should have registered a stake in the company or whether she broke lobbying rules. Mone denies any breaches of the rules and said: ‘I have been asked to help during a national emergency. Her attorney said Mone would not answer questions about the dresses because “she has no involvement in the business.”

A lawyer for PPE Medpro said the company believes it is entitled to keep the money paid for unused gowns, on the grounds that it has fulfilled the contract. They said: ‘The gowns were fully inspected by DHSC officers and it was only when they were satisfied that the contractual requirements had been met that payment was sent to PPE Medpro. Payment was sent in full, which clearly signifies complete satisfaction with the inspection process. »

Do you have any information about this story? Email [email protected] or (using a non-work phone) use Signal or WhatsApp to message +44 7584 640566

This inspection appears to have taken place in China, before the gowns were then transported to the UK. The Guardian has seen a leaked 20-page report of an internal supply chain inspection apparently carried out before that, in late August, at a factory in China’s Jiangsu province.

It contains photos from inside the factory showing workers in casual clothes in front of sewing machines next to large piles of blue dresses, some lying on the floor. The packing area is cramped and dimly lit.

Photographs show Medpro PPE gowns were packed in boxes at the factory with “sterile surgical gown” printed on the side in block letters. Each dress was also packed in a clear plastic bag, with labels inserted inside.

The inspection report labels bear the name and logo of EPI Medpro, the technical specifications and the instructions for use of the “sterile surgical gowns”. However, they do not display a certification number from a ‘notified body’ such as the British Standards Institute (BSI) which would generally be expected to confirm that surgical gowns were sterile according to regulations.

A lawyer for PPE Medpro did not dispute that no notified body had certified the gowns as sterile, but suggested that was not necessary as the gowns had been approved under “an equivalent technical solution”, which which meant that “normal rules do not apply”.

Draft and final labels inserted into Medpro PPE gowns. The final labels did not contain a BSI number. Photography: The Guardian

They suggested that PPE Medpro was exempt from the standard rules because its products were supplied according to “very specifically and precisely agreed processes” and “in accordance with the schedules of the contract”.

The Guardian also leaked what appears to be a draft label for Medpro PPE gowns which included a BSI number. It is not known when the label was designed or by whom, and it does not appear to have been used as the final label.

It appears largely identical to the final label seen in the leaked inspection report, except for the display of the number – 2797 – which is the official identification mark of BSI’s Dutch office.

A BSI spokesperson said it had never authorized PPE Medpro to use this certification number and had now reported the incident to the Dutch regulator, the Health and Youth Inspectorate (IJG): “We can confirm that PPE Medpro is not a BSI customer. We have reported the misuse of our notified body number to the IGJ.”

PPE Medpro did not respond directly to questions from the Guardian about when the label was designed, its purpose, whether it had ever been shown to DHSC and why it apparently displayed an unauthorized BSI number. The firm’s attorney said he denied any wrongdoing.

The attorney added that the DHSC required all sterilization documentation prior to shipment and that the gowns were collected from a sterilization facility it approved.

When the gowns were finally delivered to a PPE depot in Daventry, they were inspected by officials from DHSC and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The DHSC declined to explain why the gowns were rejected, as mediation over its dispute with PPE Medpro continues. An MHRA spokesman said: “They did not enter the supply chain after a series of checks by MHRA and DHSC which also showed they were not double-packed. “

Comments are closed.