The early days, the first suppliers any why dates matter.
There were delays in publishing contracts & they were not published in the order they were awarded. I decided to look at the order by award date. This raises many questions!
Originally this thread was going to look at a company called Toffeln Ltd, one of the very first companies to be awarded a Covid contract & another Plymouth Brethren company with links to a Tory Minister (see our separate Toffeln story). It is now part of a wider thread on the first response from Government, when awarding PPE contracts.
The first DHSC Covid PPE contracts all went directly to manufacturers in China & were signed off by the British embassy in Beijing. In total ten contracts worth £107 million for masks & goggles were awarded from 22nd March 2020 to 29th March 2020. Though they were not published until December 2020.
It is odd that some of these contracts were not signed until weeks later by the supplier? The majority have the contract signature date redacted. One of these original Chinese companies was on the VIP list, which indicates that the VIP channel was established very early in the response. This company was Liaoning Zhongquiao and the referrer was Michael Gove.
By the end of March 2020. The government had only awarded PPE contracts to Chinese based companies. There were a further 17 contracts however awarded in March for Logistics, Testing & Consultancy work. Some of these 17 contracts have links to the Tory party.
April saw the start of the first awards of PPE contracts to UK companies. It was a process that started slowly. The first was on the 2nd April 2020 with Bunzl being awarded a £22.5 million contract, which is still missing from contract finder. The second award was on the 4th April 2020, when a company called Toffeln were awarded a £1.1 million contract, also missing from contract finder. The award to Bunzl would make sense, but the award to Toffeln a small shoe supplier stands out as somewhat strange.
Toffeln is based in Bristol, in 2020 they formed a joint venture called Self Protection with the Turner family owned V12 footwear of Chippenham. Ben Turner director & shareholder in V12 later becoming a director and shareholder in Toffeln. Ben Turner is now the father in law of Tory Minister Michelle Donelan. How did Toffeln get in so early on the PPE contracts?
The next award is on the 5th April 2020 to a Sovereign Business Solutions for a contract worth £1.25m. Oddly, this contract was not signed by the supplier until 20th April and this time the contract is visible. It is also worth noting that one of the directors proudly published on social media about them helping the NHS on the 26th April.
On the 6th April 2020, Ocean Footprint Ltd were awarded a £5.1 million contract, another where the contract is missing and another with Tory links. Ocean Footprint had appointed a director Julian Malins on 20th March 2020. Malins had previously stood as a Tory party candidate & his brother Humfrey Malins was a Tory MP 1983-2010. Julian was also retained by Cambridge Analytica to report on political activities. This story was covered by Byline Times.
On the 8th April 2020, Excalibur Healthcare were awarded a £25 million contract, this contract is visible and was signed by the supplier on 5th April. Another on on the VIP list being referred by Matt Hancock. At this stage you begin to wonder if most of the early PPE contracts were just Tory mates!
What is apparent is that the VIP & Tory connected links to the early awarded PPE contracts, doesn't end with just PPE, as Covid contracts for consulting, logistics and testing were also awarded to companies with Tory connections.
As the Covid enquiry produces WhatsApp messages it is clear that the Government were slow to start awarding contracts. There is more to add to this thread, which I hope to do. Thank you again for reading. Many of these stories will have been covered by Byline Time & Good Law Project.