Firm with links to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock’s family has been awarded a £5.5 million contract for COVID-19 mobile testing

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The chairman of the healthcare company awarded over 5million is the former business partner of the Health and Social Care Secretary’s mother and stepfather

A firm with links to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock’s family has been awarded a £5.5 million contract for COVID-19 mobile testing units, Byline Times revealed.

Details of the deal, published yesterday, show the company, based in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, was awarded a contract for £5,462,150 to supply the testing units to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Beginning on 15 September, the company has been expected to provide articulated mobile testing units to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The contract will run for a year – ending on 14 September 2021.

The chairman of EMS Healthcare, who has been a director of the company since 2013, is Iain Johnston – a former business partner of Shirley and Robert Carter, Hancock’s mother and stepfather.

Indeed, Johnston and Robert Carter were previously directors at GB Mailing Systems, which appears to be linked to a Chester-based company called GB Group. The firm, which specialises in verifying the location of individuals, now boasts annual revenues of more than £100 million.

Johnston was a director of GB Mailing Systems from 1989, when the company formed, to 2001. Robert Carter was a director from 1989 to 2002. Shirley Carter also served as company secretary from 1989 to 1994.

Johnston and Robert Carter also served as company directors at a now-dissolved firm called GB Datacare, the former from 1996 – when the company was founded – until 2001, and the latter from 1996 until 2003.

While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing in the EMS Healthcare deal, it will not quell concerns about the procurement of public services during the Coronavirus pandemic – in particular the fact that multiple firms with links to the Conservative Party have won large contracts.

My Little Crony

The fantastic map put together a spiders web of Tory cronyism now seems to have another thread to add.

‘My Little Crony’ shows the web of connections between the Conservatives and private companies was ‘well worth a look’.

Scores of government contracts have been handed out to political donors, family members and employers during the pandemic, with research by the Good Law Project uncovering the scale of cronyism in Number 10.

The My Little Crony map
The ‘My Little Crony’ map shows a web of contacts between the UK Government, the Conservative Party, MPs and family members ‘My Little Crony’

The more the Tories’ cronyism is indulged, the more their sense of entitlement grows and the more people accept it as the norm.

The figures are staggering. So far, it is estimated that the government, without a transparent tendering process, handed out £18bn in coronavirus-related contracts during the first six months of the pandemic alone. Of this, £1.5bn can be traced to companies or individuals with connections to the Conservative party.

Within those billions there is more shocking detail. A spider’s web of unqualified Tory donors, university friends, neighbours and local pub owners has been entrusted with everything from the provision of PPE to the manufacturing of medical equipment. The tendering process seems to have been jettisoned for random phone calls and texts from opportunists, with ministers too lazy to go through due process and too arrogant to care. 

Dan Carden Labour MP hit the point in a tweet saying:

“The whole thing stinks. This Government’s incompetence, its cronyism, its ideological obsession with outsourcing and rip-off privatisation has undermined our NHS and put lives at risk. Time to kick the profiteers out of the system and put local public health teams in charge.”

A recent National Audit Office (NAO) report for example found that, in the case of the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), an expedited, “high-priority” lane was established for firms recommended by MPs, ministers or officials. One in 10 suppliers (47 out of 493) channelled through the high-priority lane obtained contracts, compared to less than one in a hundred (104 of 14,892) of those processed through the ordinary lane.

In addition, deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds have been awarded to firms owned by backers of the Conservative Party. This includes one company, owned by a Conservative donor, that won contracts worth at least £154.7 million a month after meeting with a Government minister.

Hancock himself has even been accused of distributing pandemic response work to people in his inner circle. The Guardian revealed in late November that his former neighbour had been contracted to supply millions of vials for NHS COVID-19 tests after sending a WhatsApp message to Hancock offering his services.

“This raises yet another serious question about this Government’s procurement process,” Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves told Byline Times, about the EMS Healthcare contract. “Week after week this Tory Government is urged to be more transparent, yet week on week we see more stories like this.”

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