In Brief

Healthcare firm advised by Tory MP handed £133m coronavirus contract ‘unopposed’

Health department agreed deal as part of push to meet 100,000 daily tests target

A healthcare company that employs Conservative MP Owen Paterson as a paid consultant has been awarded a £133m contract to produce coronavirus testing kits without any other firms being invited to bid for the work, according to reports.

Documents seen by The Guardian say that Randox Laboratories was handed the massive contract by the  Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) “without prior publication of a call for competition”.

The deal was agreed under “fast-track” arrangements “that enable public bodies dealing with the pandemic to give contracts to commercial companies” without inviting other tenders, the newspaper adds. 

In the official notice of the contract, the DHSC reportedly said there was no other way of obtaining the urgently needed testing kits and associated services. 

The register of MPs’ financial interests states that Paterson has been a consultant to Randox since August 2015 and is paid “£8,333 a month for a monthly commitment of 16 hours”.

When asked if Paterson had lobbied for the testing kits contract, a government source told The Guardian that the DHSC was “unable to comment on the personnel matters of other organisations”.

Paterson did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

Meanwhile, a statement from Randox pointed out that the company “is only one partner within a multi-partner, national testing programme. The programme is being run and coordinated by the Department of Health and Social Care and they would be best placed to comment on the overall programme.”

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News of the contract comes weeks after Buzzfeed revealed that Randox been selling a “rapid Covid-19 home testing kit” online for £120 to consumers and private clinics. Paterson - who was reportedly self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms at the time - declined to comment to the news site on his involvement with the firm.

Documents obtained by The Guardian last year found that Paterson had also held meetings with officials and a government minister asking them to take steps that would benefit Randox and another film that he advises, Lynn’s Country Foods.

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