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Cronyism row over Covid tests: Companies with political contacts had bids marked as ‘fast track’


Cronyism row over Covid tests: Companies with political contacts had their virus-screening bids marked as ‘fast track’, leaked email shows

  • Firms with political connections had bids for Covid test contracts ‘fast tracked’
  • There was a similar set up for £37bln test and trace scheme, leaked emails show
  • An official running the VIP priority lane was also using a private email address

Firms with political connections had their bids to provide Covid tests designated as ‘fast track’, a leaked email has revealed.

A so-called VIP priority lane for personal protective equipment operated in the early stages of the pandemic – but the email suggests there was also one for the £37billion test and trace scheme.

It also shows that an official running the priority lane used a private email address – which is hugely contentious because it means vital correspondence could be withheld from civil servants and any public inquiry.

Firms with political connections had their bids to provide Covid tests and designated as ‘fast track’, a leaked email has revealed (Pictured, NHS Test and Trace employees work at a drive through testing site in Southport, north west England)

Firms with political connections had their bids to provide Covid tests and designated as ‘fast track’, a leaked email has revealed (Pictured, NHS Test and Trace employees work at a drive through testing site in Southport, north west England)

The email, sent last April by Max Cairnduff, a Cabinet Office procurement director, said: ‘If [offers] come from a minister/private office then please put FASTTRACK at the beginning of the subject line.’ 

The email was sent to the private offices of ministers Michael Gove, Lord Bethell, Lord Agnew and Jo Churchill.

The revelations come as it emerged that health minister Lord Bethell had 27 meetings early in the pandemic which went undeclared for more than a year. At least nine of them resulted in contracts.

A row has been growing since it emerged that Matt Hancock, the former Health Secretary who quit last Saturday after an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, had been using gmail for departmental business and potentially to discuss the award of contracts.

A row has been growing since it emerged that Matt Hancock, the former Health Secretary who quit last Saturday after an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, had been using gmail for departmental business and potentially to discuss the award of contracts

A row has been growing since it emerged that Matt Hancock, the former Health Secretary who quit last Saturday after an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, had been using gmail for departmental business and potentially to discuss the award of contracts

Cabinet Office guidance is that all government business must be conducted through official channels, to provide a paper trail for important decisions and allow for scrutiny.

Now an email sent by a senior civil servant has confirmed that there was a dedicated email address for offers to supply PPE from people who had been recommended by a minister or senior official.

It was disclosed by the government as part of its response to a legal challenge against three PPE contracts brought by the Good Law Project, which argues that the operation of the ‘VIP lane’ was unlawful because it favoured companies with connections to politicians.

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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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