“Impossible to have confidence” that Randox contracts were awarded properly
27 July 2022
In a highly critical report published today the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee says that “woefully inadequate record-keeping”, failing to meet even basic requirements to publicly report ministers’ meetings with external parties or deal with potential conflicts of interest, “despite clear concerns about Randox’s political connections” means it is “impossible to have confidence” that the £777 million of contracts – many without competition – “were awarded properly”.
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The Committee says that “even allowing for the exceptional circumstances at the start of the pandemic, basic civil service practices to document contract decision making were not followed and DHSC “failed in its duties to be transparent about meetings that its ministers had with Randox” leaving “the role of DHSC ministers in approving the contract confused and unclear”.
Following the initial £132 million contract – awarded with no competition and without any performance measures – Randox struggled to deliver the expected level of testing capacity: yet the Government still awarded Randox a contract extension worth £328 million seven months later, again without competition.
Randox then saw a hundred-fold increase in its profit in the year to June 2021 – but the Government did not consider supplier profit margins or the potential for excess profits in its decision making on the contracts.
Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:
“The NAO has been careful to stress that it has not seen any evidence that the Government’s contracts with Randox were awarded improperly. But then, in the case of the hundreds of millions of pounds of contracts awarded to Randox there was precious little evidence to see. Much of the business was won without any competing tenders from companies who may have had better capacity to deliver, perhaps without the upfront capital.
Add to that the failure to include any performance measures in the first contract, or any protection against excess profits, and this looks less like just the rushed policy and contract-making that we’ve seen across so much of the Government’s response to the pandemic. We repeatedly hear the reference to the crisis we were facing as a nation. But acting fast doesn’t mean acting fast and loose.”
- Inquiry: Government’s contracts with Randox Laboratories Ltd
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