Consultancy firm McKinsey was paid more than half a million pounds for six weeks of work to determine the “vision, purpose and narrative” of a new public health body in England, newly published contracts have revealed.
The contract shows that McKinsey was enlisted by the Department of Health and Social Care in May to prepare options for a new health authority that would run the country’s test-and-trace coronavirus system, according to Civil Service World magazine.
Dido Harding, who launched the test-and-trace programme in England, formerly worked as a consultant at McKinsey. She has been appointed to run the new National Institute for Health Protection, it emerged this week.
McKinsey, a US-based consultancy, was hired for £563,400 to submit a document outline the “mission and vision” of the proposed new organisation by the end of June. That amounts to £19,000 per day, at the peak of the pandemic.
The company corresponded with three members of the government’s coronavirus response team – including Baroness Harding. She worked at the firm for seven years, until 1995, before taking executive at companies including Thomas Cook and Tesco.
Harding, a Tory peer, was chief executive of TalkTalk between 2010 and 2017 – until she was forced to step down in the wake of public anger about a damaging cyber attack on the firm.
The National Institute for Health Protection will deal with pandemics and manage coronavirus tracing, replacing Public Health England – which will be scrapped after ministers blamed it for the UK’s disastrous handling of Covid-19.
McKinsey said: “Our UK public sector work is contracted by government officials under existing public procurement rules.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman added: “All contracts have been awarded in line with procurement regulations, which allows for contracts to be awarded directly in exceptional circumstances such as a global pandemic.”
Outsource, outsource, outsource
A number of consultancies have been retained by the government for various parts of its coronavirus response, including Deloitte – which was appointed to manage PPE procurement for hospitals and testing sites.
It emerged this week that a firm run by long-term allies of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove has been working covertly with exams agency Ofqual on its catastrophic A-level results strategy.
Public First – a small lobbying and research firm owned by James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, who both worked for Gove – has worked on the project with Ofqual since June, after being awarded a contract that was not put out to tender.
The revelation – revealed by the Guardian – comes after it emerged that Public First were also handed nearly a million pounds of taxpayers’ cash to advise on tackling the pandemic and reorganising the health service.
It was handed a £956,000 which, again, was not put out to a competitive tender, the Mirror reported.
Related: Cummings and Gove allies handed more Covid contracts without tender