Burning The Evidence: A Public Sector Procurement Exposé by Colin Cram

Posted on July 7, 2022


With over 20 years Board level experience, Colin Cram, runs successful international consultancy, conference, training and journalism businesses. Specialisms include procurement, outsourcing, shared services, organisational re-engineering, cost reduction and combating fraud. Customers include government organisations and major multi-nationals. Visit Colin’s LinkedIn Profile

The UK government wasted three-quarters of the £12 billion (US$15) it spent on purchasing PPE in the first year of the COVID pandemic, according to the influential UK Parliament’s “Public Accounts Committee”. https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/127/public-accounts-committee/news/171306/4-billion-of-unusable-ppe-bought-in-first-year-of-pandemic-will-be-burnt-to-generate-power/ Part of this was due to excessively high prices and £4billion (US$5billion) of product that is not fit for purpose. It is planning to dispose of the latter, mainly through burning. In an astonishingly scathing statement, the Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP, said the government “splurged huge amounts of money, paying obscenely inflated prices and payments to middlemen in a chaotic rush during which they chucked out even the most cursory due diligence. This has left us with massive public contracts now under investigation by the National Crime Agency”.”.

To put these numbers in context, £9 billion would pay for over 20,000 additional nurses for the National Health Service or over 10,000 additional doctors for ten years.

So, what is meant by excessively high prices? There is evidence that one company, Medpro Ltd, with links to a UK politician, charged the government £122million (nearly US$150million) for surgical gowns that it bought for £46million (just under US$60million), a gross price mark-up of 165%. The National Health Service is unable to use them. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/mar/27/government-paid-firm-linked-to-tory-peer-122m-for-ppe-bought-for-46m My research suggests this may not be untypical, which supports the argument that, if anything, the Public Accounts Committee figure for waste may be conservative.

The results of my investigations into the PPE scandal and information from some first-class investigations by others suggest the potential for the biggest financial and political scandal the UK has ever seen. There is also the possibility that money laundering on a huge scale may have taken place to conceal some very high profits and to evade corporation tax on them. It would be interesting to know from the UK government how much of the £12 billion payments into UK bank accounts – as opposed to offshore ones were monies that went into bank accounts owned by the businesses with which the government contracted.

How might excessive profits be used? There is a possibility that some of these funds could be used to influence the policies of various governments while destabilising others. The information I have means we cannot exclude the possibility of a serious security risk.

How this situation came about will be the subject of my next article. Had it not been for Brexit, it might not have happened. In the meantime, there have been suggestions in the press of significant deletions of emails https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/covid-contracts-lord-bethell-thought-deleted-messages-were-backed-up- and the use of Whatsapp and private email accounts to conduct PPE business. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jul/06/investigation-launched-into-private-email-use-in-department-of-health https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/aug/04/covid-contracts-minister-lord-bethell-replaced-phone-before-it-could-be-searched

A bonfire of sub-standard and unsuitable PPE could eliminate significant evidence that any fraud prosecution might need. Neither this nor further email deletions nor the deletions of personal phones and email addresses must be allowed to happen until the completion of the investigations.

©Colin M Cram FCIPS Whatsapp: +44 75251 49611 rc.cram@btinternet.com