Government accused of wasting taxpayers’ money paying over odds for PPE from China

Ministers have been accused of paying over the odds for personal protective equipment (PPE) after rejecting an offer from a British business to supply surgical gowns to deal directly with its Chinese supplier instead.

The start-up’s three employees spent a week and about £10,000 sourcing the items, including paying distributors in China to translate specifications to ensure they met NHS requirements. It was asked to provide the Government with the names of the manufacturers it worked with, only to receive a notification from the Covid-19 response team at the Department of Health and Social Care nearly three weeks later that its offer had been rejected.

The business then received an email from its Chinese supplier, saying the Government had bought a million gowns of a lower specification for 25pc more than the company had offered. A spokesman for the supplier said it had no previous government orders.

“This is the Government’s strategy: get all the information and go in directly,” the business owner said. “A lot of time, money and effort went into this to try to do something that’s right, only for someone to waste taxpayers’ money. The Government is stripping information and good will out of smaller companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups.”

Simon Festing, chief executive of the British Healthcare Trades Association, said it was not an isolated incident. “Some of our members have been quite disturbed by what appears to be a deliberate strategy by the Government to bypass them. That has included asking for details of their suppliers, despite assurances they wouldn’t bypass them.”

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