The role of a Conservative Party donor in a £100m government deal to buy PPE has been revealed following an reported admin error
A second document had listed Samir Jassal, an ex-councillor and Tory donor who has both campaigned with the PM and donated money to the Conservative Party, as the contact of the supplier.
The deal for face masks had been signed back in July, but the names of those who were involved were blacked out when the contract was eventually published seven months after.
The government has said that ministers have no part in deciding who gets these contracts.
But this revelation is the latest in a series of revelations about PPE deals being awarded to those with connections to the government.
Although the deal, that was for protective masks for hospital workers, had been signed last year, the details had only come to light in March following a court rebuking the government for failing to publish the contracts within the correct legal time frame.
This comes after the prime minister has faced repeated quizzing from MPs about the lobbying row that has engulfed David Cameron, his Prime Ministerial predecessor, and has also dragged in some former and current ministers and government officials.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been found to have been acting unlawfully for this failure by the government.
Even when the deal that involved Mr Jassal had finally been published, the contact details for the supplier had been blacked out. Full contracts are routinely redacted when the government publishes them.
However, in what has appeared to be a clerical error, a separate document was published along with the contract that gives Mr Jassal’s name. He is listed as being the “supplier’s contact” to Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited, the company that was paid to supply the protective masks.
He told the BBC that he was a consultant for the business.
The PPE contract was negotiated following the aftermath of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic within the UK.
At the time, with the rising global demand for PPE, the government had directly awarded contracts under its emergency terms, which meant that it didn’t have to spend its time following the usual process.
However, this has led to many concerns over why these particular suppliers had been chosen, with accusations of favouring those firms that have close political connections to the Conservative Party.
Mr Jassal, who is a former Conservative Party councillor, appears to be well connected to many within the government.
He joined Boris Johnson on an official trip last October to a recycling plant in west London, and had accompanied him on a campaign visit to a Sikh temple during his run in the 2019 general election campaign.
This comes after the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been forced to cancel his forthcoming India trip as a result of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic within the country.
Mr Jassal stood as a Conservative candidate himself in two general elections and he is standing again as a councillor for Gravesham Borough Council in next month’s local elections.
His LinkedIn profile claims he worked as an adviser to the now Home Secretary Priti Patel between 2014 and 2015. The BBC understands this was unpaid. He describes her as a “good friend” on social media. In 2016, he donated £4,000 to the party.
At the height of the UK pandemic in 2020, the government set up a “high-priority lane” for businesses endorsed by Whitehall officials or politicians, to fast-track PPE orders. Ministers have refused to reveal the full list of firms that went through this fast lane.
In November, the spending watchdog found these companies were 10 times more likely to win contracts than suppliers that came through the normal route.