United Kingdom

Healthcare company controlled by Lord Ashcroft is given Covid-19 testing role 

A company controlled by Tory party donor and long-time tax exile Lord Ashcroft has been handed a £350 million Government coronavirus testing contract.

The deal, signed on December 20, requires his company, Medacs Healthcare, to provide staff for both lab and mobile testing over the next two years. Details were published on a government website on Tuesday. 

The contract is described as a 'call-off from a framework agreement', meaning it was awarded without an open competitive tender process.

Lord Ashcroft's involvement will fuel the controversy over the so-called 'chumocracy' which has seen friends of MPs, peers and ministers awarded pandemic deals which run into billions. 

A company controlled by Tory party donor and long-time tax exile Lord Ashcroft, pictured in 2019, has been handed a £350 million Government coronavirus testing contract

In November, the Mail revealed the existence of a 'VIP channel' to speed up such deals. Later, a report by the National Audit Office confirmed that companies who got this special treatment were ten times as likely to win contracts.

Medacs Healthcare is a well-established company, which has numerous other staffing contracts with both central and local government. Last year it made a profit of £45 million.

It is a subsidiary of the Impellam Group, of which Lord Ashcroft is chairman.

He has donated millions to the Conservatives over decades – including a single donation of £5.1 million in 2010. Last year he gave £175,000.

For many years he was domiciled in Belize, which meant he could legally avoid paying UK tax. He promised he would put an end to this in 2010, but seven years later the leaked 'Panama Papers' revealed he continued to shelter millions in an offshore trust until 2015.

Jolyon Maugham QC, whose Public Law Project has spearheaded efforts to expose Covid contracts won by cronies of the Government, said: 'It's easy to think that pretty much every new contract awarded without a tender will have a link to a Tory donor and the only question is 'who?'.

The deal, signed on December 20, requires his company, Medacs Healthcare, to provide staff for both lab and mobile testing over the next two years. Pictured: Covid testing in Liverpool

'What happened to fairness? What happened to value for money? What happened to the public interest?'

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: 'Proper due diligence is carried out on all government contracts.'

A spokesman for Medacs Healthcare said: 'The non-executive directors do not have any involvement in the award of contracts or the operational, day-to-day management of the company.'

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