Matt Hancock: Billions wasted on contracts for Tory donors and nothing left for key workers
By GEORGINA MILNER
In the best-case scenario, this Conservative government is culpable of gross stupidity, incapable of performing basic tasks let alone running a country. In the worst-case scenario, the government potentially has knowingly and intentionally committed crimes against public interests, wasted taxpayer money, and bathed themselves in a cesspool of cronyism and corruption. Either way, Boris Johnson and his administration have shown themselves to be unfit to run the country, especially during a time of not just national, but global crisis.
Recently Matt Hancock and the DHSC have been found by the courts to have acted unlawfully over the publishing of PPE contracts, many of which were not published in the correct legal timeframe. At the time this guilty verdict seemed like a victory for the Good Law project, however there have since been no firings, no resignations, no apologies, nothing. In fact, Matt Hancock later went on Good Morning Britain and argued that he and his team should be thanked for their illegal acts.
But even Hancock’s excuse for lying is based on a lie. First of all, he refused to admit any wrongdoings had occurred despite the court’s ruling, and secondly, he argued regardless the public should thank him because it was done to ensure that there would be no shortages in PPE for health workers. The blatancy of this lie is astounding when nurses across the country can still clearly remember being forced to wear bin bags for some ounce of protection in the earlier months of the pandemic, and when £204 million was spent on unusable FFP2 face masks for the Government’s VIP lane favourites Ayanda and Pestix. This wasted money being more than double the cost of what it would have been to raise nurses’ wages by at least 2% rather than 1%. And this is just the small-level waste. It is almost physically painful to think of the £22 billion wasted on Serco’s test and trace system, just so far, which could have paid for a £6000 rise for ten years for every nurse in the country.
Corruption within the government between MP’s, advisors, and businesses is no new phenomenon, but it has only been amplified with the introduction of the VIP lane for contracts, where privileged access is granted to suppliers recommended by Tory ministers and MP’s for priority over other businesses. Companies connected to the Conservative Party, be it through donations or through being a minister’s neighbour, have been granted contracts without tender, while other companies are never even given the chance to compete against this nepotism.
One such claim is being levelled at the awarding of a £112 million NHS deal to a firm run by ex-associate of Tory peer Michelle Mone, with seemingly no qualifications of experience beyond the connection to her. Another claim is being levelled against the government awarding a £670,000 contract to a PR firm connected to Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law. Even worse is that many of these contracts were given to companies with no previous experience in that field. It emerged that the government has allegedly awarded at least 25 contracts to just one company. There can be no justifiable reason for this continued wastage of public money by a government that claims inability to pay healthcare workers more than an extra £3.50 a week but apparently had enough funds to pay private sector consultants thousands a day.
When seeing stories about how the government bought 35 years-worth of ‘coveralls’ that only last up to 3 years, it is easy to assume that the government is simply incompetent, blindly making mistake after mistake. But that assumption would be wrong. If one were to step back and think about this in the context of their own life, if you were to pay a lot of money for a product and it came to you damaged or missing parts, you would demand a refund and at the very least you would search for the product from another supplier as clearly the first one cannot be trusted. So why then did the government not only pay £22 billion for a faulty track and trace system, but promise an extra £15 billion in funding for it through 2021-22?
Money indeed grows on trees when it comes to helping big business boost their profits, but when it comes to key workers, the unemployed, and those made most vulnerable in our society by this pandemic, we can expect no more than the spare change falling from the pockets of corporations.
The global coalition for transparency and anti-corruption has now put the UK ‘under review’, citing concerns about the government’s commitment to openness following a series of scandals. Other countries currently under review include Bulgaria, Malawi, Malta, and South Africa. And who can blame them when the UK has an allegedly corrupt government, held to account neither by its opposition nor the media? The country is forced to rely on the likes of Piers Morgan for some degree of exposure and accountability. However, the Conservative government is not alone to blame for this. If the opposition has played less of a role in challenging the government than a morning show host, then they too are responsible for this fiasco.
Image: Flickr (Number 10)