Full list of private companies handed £30 billion of public money to assist in UK government’s Covid response

Jim Armitage
·3-min read
 (Virgin Atlantic)
(Virgin Atlantic)

The Government has spent more than £30 billion on private contractors to assist its pandemic response, with companies ranging from PWC and Deloitte to British Airways, data showed today.

The huge sum will put further pressure on the Government to explain why it has had to rely so heavily on external contractors to fight the pandemic, and increase scrutiny over the competence of its procurement.

By far the biggest beneficiary was the US lateral flow test provider Innova Medical Group, with eight contracts valued at £3.2 billion, followed by Bedfordshire-based rival Global Access Diagnostics at £1.16 billion.

Essex logistics group Uniserve comes in third place with eight contracts totaling £777 million. The company brought in charter flights full of PPE and essential equipment for health workers.

Unispace Global, currently being taken over by private group PAG, received £684 million to provide gloves and other PPE.

The table below includes all the latest data collected by contracts monitoring group Tussell, which can be searched by location, company name and description of the contract.

The big three categories — Test and Trace, PPE and other hospital supplies such as ventilators and medicines — dominate, but services from accountants, management consultants and even lawyers are also high on the list as the Government outsources more project work from the Civil Service. Consulting, marketing and research spend was £624 million.

Social support contracts, such as temporary homeless accommodation, were also notable, with £739 million awarded to private sector providers, as the Government struggled to provide services from existing state infrastructure.

Private healthcare companies also received big contracts to ease the pressure on NHS hospitals, Tussell found. Spire Healthcare and Circle Health gained £466 million and £463 million contracts respectively. Among consultancies, Deloitte gained most by value, at £279.5 million, while PWC won most by volume, at 35 contracts worth £30 million.

British Airways was awarded 26 contracts to fly in equipment worth £85.5 million while Virgin Atlantic landed 19 contracts worth £46.5 million for flying in PPE and lateral flow tests.

Even lawyers got in on the action, with law firm Gowling winning 20 contracts totalling £400,000 and Mills & Reeve getting 25 worth £600,000.

Among the most recent awards were Innova’s two rapid test contracts, worth £137 million each, and a similar two for £92 million and £34 million for US test operator Tanner Pharma.

Mitie won a £90 million contract to check people are self-isolating at home.

A government spokesman said: “During the pandemic our priority has always been to protect the public and save lives, and we have used existing rules to buy life saving equipment and supplies, such as PPE for the NHS front line.

“All PPE procurement went through the same assurance process and due diligence is carried out on every contract."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "As part of our response to the pandemic, it has been necessary for the government to draw on extra resources and expertise from the private sector to tackle COVID-19.

"Ministers are concerned however that the government is too reliant on consultants and have written to departments to make clear that services should only be procured when external expertise is essential and represents value for money."

Tussell said contract notices are published after they have been awarded, sometimes with a significant delay, and could be subject to change.

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