Boris Johnson’s cronies helped pals bag £10bn of taxpayers’ cash with PPE orders

More than £10billion worth of orders for PPE were dished out to firms recommended by ministers, MPs and peers, auditors found.

The Government was accused of ignoring conflicts of interest as the National Audit Office found £10.5bn of the £18bn spent on 8,600 pandemic contracts by July 31 was awarded without being put to tender. About 80% of the deals were for PPE.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he was "proud" of the Government’s actions.

The report came after it was revealed Spanish businessman Gabriel González Andersson got £21million for acting as a go-­between to secure protection for NHS staff.

Meg Hillier, chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said ministers should publish all information about the contract awards fearing the findings may be the tip of the iceberg.

She said: "The Government overlooked a serious conflict of interest, paid consultants for months before giving them contracts and purchased masks it knew weren’t up to scratch.

"It’s bad enough that it set up a 'high-priority lane’ to fast-track companies with the right connections.

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"But the failure to track how half the companies had ended up on it made it impossible to ensure proper safeguards were in place."

The spending watchdog acknowledged regulations allow an emergency response, which include awarding deals directly without formal competition.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said eight months into the crisis the Government was "still making the same mistakes".

But Mr Johnson shot back: "We were facing a very difficult situation where across the world there were not adequate supplies of PPE. Nobody had enough PPE.

"We shifted heaven and earth to get 32billion items of PPE into this country. I’m very proud of what has been achieved."

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