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Fri 4 December 2020

The man leading the Government’s procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) has seen an internal contract awarded to a close business associate

A company with close business ties to Lord Paul Deighton, the Government’s ‘PPE Tsar’, has been awarded a £300,620 deal for the supply of human resources (HR) to his department, Byline Times can reveal.

The HR firm Chanzo Limited was granted this deal on 25 August, a redacted Government document shows. The contract relates to the provision of services between April and September 2020, seemingly drawn up four months after the work began.

The contracts spells out the scope of work, including: the provision of a full-time chief of staff role to the PPE Tsar, alongside the provision of a temporary HR team, assisting in the selection of PPE suppliers, and helping to organise a “new PPE organisation”.

Chanzo is majority owned by Jean Tomlin, who has worked closely with Deighton for several years. The pair are both directors of Hakluyt & Company – until this year called Holdingham Group – a “strategic advisory” firm based in London. Deighton sits as chairman of the company while Tomlin holds a non-executive director role, having been appointed in September 2018.

Their alliance seems to stretch back to the 2012 London Olympics, when Deighton was appointed as CEO of the organising committee. Soon after Deighton assumed his role in December 2005, Tomlin was appointed as director of HR, workforce and accreditation – serving in the position until April 2013. After the Olympic Games, Deighton was nominated to the House of Lords and appointed as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury by David Cameron. Tomlin, meanwhile, was awarded an OBE.

The close working relationship between Deighton and Tomlin is emphasised on Chanzo’s website. Tomlin’s profile features a glowing endorsement from Deighton, which reads: “Aside from being a true leader with a passion for delivering excellence, Jean has a proven track record of operational delivery in senior roles and a wealth of Human Resources expertise. I remain a firm advocate of her business acumen, which is a unique blend of expertise.”

Chanzo’s PPE contract was formally awarded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which had previously appointed Deighton as PPE Tsar on 19 April. The former Goldman Sachs investment banker was tasked with filling the country’s rapidly-diminishing stockpile of health equipment – a situation that was putting health workers at risk.

Deploying its budget of £13.8 billion, the Government claims it has purchased more than 32 billion items of PPE, accumulating a four-month stockpile. However, despite this apparent success, there have been questions raised about the nature of the Government’s spending splurge.

Primarily, the suitability of certain suppliers has been scrutinised. The Government commissioned thousands of companies to supply PPE at rapid speed and some of the firms seem to have odd backgrounds. For example, Byline Times has revealed that a month-old firm, a company owned in a tax haven, a dormant company, and several firms linked to an evangelical sect have all been awarded Government deals worth millions of pounds.

It has also been difficult for journalists and MPs to understand these deals, with the Government’s modus operandi to divulge as little information as possible. Although Byline Times revealed last week that one company had been paid £2.3 billion for the supply of PPE, only a small proportion of this spending had been released on the Government’s contracts portal.

In sum, it is believed that Boris Johnson’s administration has failed to release more than £3 billion worth of PPE procurement contracts – now the subject of a legal battle between campaigners and the Government.

Ministers have even been intransigent to scrutiny from MPs, several of whom have seen enquiries ignored by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock and the Prime Minister.

This hasn’t helped to quell widespread concern about the recipients of the Government’s procurement binge. Especially when, as exposed by Byline Times, at least £364 million in PPE contracts have been awarded to firms with ties to the Conservative Party.

In the case of Deighton and Tomlin, the latter clearly has a wealth of HR experience – and the pair will benefit from an established working relationship.

However, any suggestion of seemingly closed-shop agreements paid for with taxpayer cash does not counter the perception that many deals have been awarded to friends of Johnson’s regime.

Lord Deighton and Chanzo Limited did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Steve Komarnyckyj


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