The role of a Tory donor and former Number 10 advisor in a £100 million PPE deal was scrubbed from public documents, after it was apparently revealed by accident.
Samir Jassal, a former Downing Street advisor under David Cameron, was named as the point of contact for a lucrative deal handed to Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited (PDL) in a previously undisclosed contract.
The deal was struck last July, but not published until March this year.
And after the BBC approached the government about the deal, Mr Samir’s name was apparently scrubbed from the records.
The Mirror understands Mr Jassal’s name was included in the published records due to an “admin error” which also affected “hundreds” of other contracts with different organisations.
The Good Law Project (GLP), which unearthed the deal, said it showed Boris Johnson’s claim in Parliament that all Covid contracts from that period were “on the record” was nonsense.
The group is now seeking to bring legal action against the government over the contract.
Jo Maugham, Director of the Good Law Project said: “The first lockdown ended in June. How can we still have needed PPE so urgently as to award a vast £100m+ PPE contract without any competition in July?”
And Gemma Abbott, the group’s legal director said: “It’s of profound public importance that we discover who has benefited from the special arrangements put in place, who has benefited from the billions of public money spent, and at whose direction.”
Rachel Reeves, Labour ’s Shadow Cabinet Office minister, said “It says everything about the rampant Tory sleaze consuming this government that such a huge conflict of interest was revealed by mistake.
“The Government keeps saying that it wants to be transparent on deals – but the redactions on this contract show this was a deliberate cover up. They’ve been caught red handed.
“It’s clear it’s one rule for the Conservative Party and their friends and donors, and another for everyone else.”
Mr Jassal has donated £4,000 to the Conservative Party in recent years, and according to the GLP has met with Boris Johnson on at least ten occasions – most recently last October.
He told the BBC that PDL has 20 years’ experience in the healthcare sector and applied to supply PPE via an online government portal.
And he said all the masks “successfully entered the NHS supply chain in a timely manner” and met “all technical standards which were rigorously vetted and approved by the Health and Safety Executive, the DHSC and the NHS”.
Ministers have come under pressure to reveal details of the ‘VIP’ contracts route, which allowed friends of Ministers and MPs to be fast-tracked to lucrative Covid-19 contracts.
In November, the National Audit Office reported that hundreds of companies were referred through this route for contracts following tips from Ministers and MPs.
But the government has so far refused to reveal which deals came in through this route.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The first duty of any government in a national crisis is to protect the public and save lives, and to do that when confronted with this global pandemic we had to rapidly procure and produce PPE.
“This involved setting up a new logistics network from scratch and expanding our PPE supply chain from 226 NHS Trusts in England to more than 58,000 different settings, all of which was taking place at a time when global demand was greater than ever before.
“All PPE procurement went through the same assurance process. Due diligence has been carried out on every contract and Ministers have no involvement in deciding who is awarded contracts.”