Government’s PPE purchasing during Covid-19 resembled ‘panic buying’, MPs say

The Government’s high-risk dash to buy protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic resembled “panic buying”, a cross-party committee of MPs has found.

A “rushed” approach to buying personal protective equipment (PPE) led to “many risky contacts” and resulted in £9 billion being written off, the Public Accounts Committee said.

Its report published on Tuesday said officials had to work at “very fast pace in extraordinary circumstances” to procure essential equipment.

They had “insufficient time and resources to reflect properly on each offer”, with the sudden pressure causing them to “accept very high levels of risk”.

The committee said the Department of Health and Social Care bought products despite finding aspects of bids or providers being “sub-optimal”.

“Colloquially, this might be called panic buying,” the report said.

The risk of conflicts of interest in the VIP lane, which was later ruled to be unlawful, were “high by design”, according to the committee.

But it were unable to “comprehensively conclude” that emails from Tory peer Baroness Mone (pictured) led to PPE Medpro being treated differently by the Government.

Reports, denied by Lady Mone, have suggested the peer may have profited from the firm winning contracts worth more than £200 million.

Committee chair Dame Meg Hillier said the conclusions were “limited by nature” so as not to impact the ongoing investigation by the National Crime Agency.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “The Public Accounts Committee’s report shows PPE Medpro is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this Conservative Government’s culture of cronyism and waste.

“The Government’s dodgy contracts handed out through the illegal VIP Lane, woeful mismanagement and abject failures of due diligence have seen billions of the public’s money frittered away on PPE unfit for human use.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We acted swiftly to procure PPE at the height of the pandemic, competing in an overheated global market where demand massively outstripped supply.

“Due diligence was carried out on all companies and every company was subjected to the same checks.

“We have launched legal proceedings against the firm in question and as such it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

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