Current Affairs

Government wastes £150 million on NHS unworthy masks

In response to judicial review proceedings issued by the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor, the UK government has admitted that fifty million FFP2 masks purchased as part of a £252 million contract “will not be used in the NHS,” due to concerns over adequate fixings. 

According to the Good Law Project’s estimates, between £156 million and £177 million has been spent on the FFP2 masks which have elastic, over-ear fixings. Government standards at the time of the contract required all respirator masks to allow for fixing at the crown of the head and behind the neck to prevent gaping. 

The contract, entered into on April 29th with Ayanda Capital Ltd, included fifty million FFP2 high-strength filter masks in addition to one-hundred-and-fifty million Type IIR masks. The deal was brokered by Andrew Mills, an adviser to the International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, as well as a senior advisor to Ayanda.

According to a government letter responding to the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor’s pre-action letter towards Ayanda, “the original offer came from a related company, Propsermill Ltd.” However, the contract was not granted to the company on the grounds that it did not possess “established international banking infrastructure that could be used to effect the necessary payments overseas.”

Prospermill is a £100 company set up by Andrew Mills and his wife in 2019 and has never filed any accounts. The company was originally considered for the contract as it had “secured exclusive rights to the full production capacity of a large factory in China,” the government letter said. 

Instead, the contract was given to Ayanda Capital Limited, to which Mr Mills is a senior advisor. Speaking to the BBC, Mills said that his Board of Trade position played no part in the award of the contract to Ayanda after his own company failed to secure it.

Ayanda itself is a “London-based family office focused on broad investment strategy” specialising in “currency trading, offshore property, private equity and trade financing.” With no experience in producing medical-grade PPE, Ayanda is one of three companies contracted to produce PPE of which the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor are seeking judicial reviews.

This includes Pestfix, specialising in pest control, and confectionery wholesaler Clandeboye Agencies who were given £32 million and £108 million contracts to produce isolation suits and gowns respectively. Both the isolation suits and gowns are awaiting testing.

Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, has called for an inquiry to be held into the purchase of the fifty million masks. 

Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla Moran, has joined calls to “review the process for handing out contracts to prevent these colossal errors from happening again,” and told The Oxford Blue: “it’s vital that ministers act on the recommendations of the cross-party inquiry I’m chairing so that lessons are learned ahead of a potential second spike later this year.”

“The government has serious questions to answer over this shocking waste of taxpayers’ money,” Ms Moran told The Blue. 

With the government spending £15 billion on PPE, the delivery of sub-par products by Ayanda has prompted the Good Law Project to set up a petition calling for the government to “come clean about PPE and publish all contracts.” As of August 6th, the petition has 23,108 signatures.

Paulina Maziarska

Paulina (she/her) is a News Reporter at the Oxford Blue, was previously a News Editor on the paper, and is currently a section editor (Middle East and North Africa) at another publication. She is a second-year History and Politics undergraduate at Trinity College.