Testing giant Randox got ‘no benefit’ from former MP Owen Paterson
Testing giant Randox got ‘no benefit’ from former MP Owen Paterson pressuring ministers to use its Covid swabs, a government official said today.
Mr Paterson has urged former Health Secretary Matt Hancock to accept an offer from Randox, which paid him more than £8,000 a month for 16 hours of work, to produce virus tests for the UK.
A week after the country’s first lockdown, the company was awarded a £133m contract to produce the test without a tender process.
By February 2022, the company had received £600m.
But Shona Dunn, second permanent secretary to the Department of Health, told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee today that Randox had not benefited from its association with Mr Paterson.
His comments were in response to a question from Labour’s Nick Smith, who asked whether Mr Paterson had “played the system” to Randox’s advantage.
Ms Dunn said: ‘I do not believe from the documents I have seen that Randox derived any benefit from their direct engagement through Mr Paterson or any other channel with anyone.’
Shona Dunn, second permanent secretary to the Department of Health, told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee today that Randox had not benefited from its association with Mr Paterson
Mr Paterson resigned from the House of Commons in November last year, after being found guilty of lobbying – against parliamentary rules – on behalf of Randox, a healthcare company for which he was a paid consultant.
Messages between the pair were then released in February. They showed that Mr Paterson sent a series of text messages to Mr Hancock between January and September 2020, calling for Randox to be involved in the UK’s testing programme.
UK Health Security Agency pays consultants up to £3,100 a day
The UK Health Security Agency is paying consultants up to £3,100 a day, we learned.
Health organizations have been under the microscope for bringing in expensive consultants throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the number used by the UKHSA has fallen, as of January 31 it still employed 1,476 management consultants.
The emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus meant that a number of consultants were kept on longer than expected, the UKHSA said.
In a letter to the public accounts committee, the UKHSA said the majority of these consultants are employed in “highly specialist technology and data analytics roles”.
He adds that these consultants are paid between £706 and £3,100 a day, with the average management consultant earning £1,244 a day.
Asked about the committee’s MP figures, UKHSA chief executive Dame Dr Jenny Harries said: ‘All of these costs, although I know they will feel very high for many public viewers, they are standard contract costs … so we use all the systems in place to ensure we get the best value for money.
She told MPs that only 32% of the workforce were on ‘substantive’ civil service contracts, which had posed difficulties in transferring the technology used in the pandemic to ‘standard practice’.
Mr Paterson, who had been MP for North Shropshire since 1997, resigned from the House of Commons last year after being found guilty of lobbying – against parliamentary rules – on behalf of Randox.
The saga caused a sordid scandal in Westminster after Boris Johnson’s government launched a defense of Mr Paterson and tried to save him from a 30-day suspension, only to back down under considerable pressure.
Messages between the pair were then released in February.
They showed Mr Paterson sent a series of texts to Mr Hancock between January and September 2020 calling on Randox to be involved in the UK’s testing scheme.
The National Audit Office also found that there was insufficient documentation to show decision-making regarding the award of a contract to Ulster-based Randox.
The NAO, which audits government services, said this meant it could not confirm whether the contract had been awarded according to the rules.
But the body noted that it had seen “no evidence” that the contracts were “inappropriately awarded”.
The Public Accounts Committee – which is investigating the Government’s contracts with Randox – today heard evidence from officials from the Department of Health and the UK Health Security Agency.
Ms Dunn denied that the company benefited from Mr Paterson’s lobbying.
But Labor MP Dame Meg Hillier noted that Randox bosses had met with the Prime Minister and other officials.
She said: “A lot of very important people, but there is no documentation of what was discussed at this meeting or any agreement reached.” So you say that very firmly but you don’t know, do you?
But Ms Dunn said: ‘Everything that we have undertaken, all of the work that we have undertaken in terms of setting up contracts with suppliers has gone through the same process.
She added: ‘The other reason I say this is that some of these meetings and one chair is an example of this, were attended by a number of different suppliers.
During the oral testimony session, health chiefs were also criticized for bringing in expensive consultants throughout the pandemic. Dame Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the agency employed 1,476 management consultants as of 31 January.
“Randox was one of the few companies already known to the NHS, already providing certain services to the NHS, already had a network of laboratories, already had the capacity to meet the need.
“And so it was natural for them to be among a number of other people in these discussions.
“I certainly saw nothing to suggest that the reason they were in those talks or the reason the contract was brought forward was because of any unfair advantage they were trying to gain.”
During the oral testimony session, health chiefs were also criticized for bringing in expensive consultants throughout the pandemic.
Dame Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the agency employed 1,476 management consultants as of 31 January.
These consultants are paid between £706 and £3,100 per day, with the average management consultant earning £1,244 per day.
Asked about the figures, Dr Harries said: ‘All of these costs, although I know they will feel very high for many public viewers, these are standard contract costs… so we all use the systems in place for us ensure you get the best value for money.’