Labour MP Dawn Butler put Matt Hancock in her crosshairs at a select committee hearing yesterday, where the health secretary repeatedly refused to answer questions about PPE procurement deals offered to dodgy companies.
The government is facing a string of legal challenges after it awarded multimillion pound contracts for PPE to a number of obscure firms – including a sweet wholesaler and a ‘family office’ owned through an offshore holding firm.
Ayanda Capital Limited won a £252.5 million contract to supply an undisclosed number of face masks to the Department of Health and Social Care in April, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The firm – which describes itself as “a London-based family office focused on a broad investment strategy” – is owned through a Mauritius-based holding company and headed by Tom Horlick, a former director of investment bank Kleinwort Benson.
A £108 million contract given to PestFix – a little-known pest control firm based in Sussex, with just 16 members of staff.
According to filings on Companies House, Crisp Websites Limited – which trades as PestFix – has cash assets of just over £19,000. It was reportedly the only bidder for the PPE contract.
A further £108 million in contracts was handed out to a company called Clandeboye Agencies Limited – a sweet wholesaler with no proven expertise or experience in supplying PPE.
When Butler pointed out these contracts, Hancock defended the “absolutely mammoth effort” taken to procure PPE and claiming that the government could be “proud of how we turned it around”.
The health secretary, pressed on how many units of PPE were actually ordered, lashed out at “individual complaints about individual contracts”.
“I will defend the people who made decisions even if the decisions in hindsight turned out to be wrong, because of the massive task at hand.”
Writing on Twitter, Butler said that the public deserved to know how its money was being spend.