COVID Contract-Winning Firm Owned by Tory DonorSees Major Financial Boost
Max Colbert reports on the millions gained by one of the Government’s PPE suppliers
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A Conservative-linked firm commissioned by the Government to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic has seen a healthy growth in its financial position, Byline Times and The Citizens can reveal.
Stroud-based P14 Medical (trading as Platform 14), last week finally filed its company accounts, after extending the previous accounting period from December 2020 to 30 June 2021.
The company is run by former Conservative councillor Steve Dechan, who resigned his position after the contracts were revealed.
At the time, Dechan said that “it’s a ridiculous thing to say” that P14 benefitted because of its political connections.
Dechan’s firm was awarded more than £276 million of taxpayers’ money across three contracts, issued without tender, between April and early June 2020 for the supply of medical gowns and face masks.
In 2019, before the chaos of the pandemic, P14 posted a loss of £485,886. Following the award of the contracts to the company, however, Dechan said that he had since taken a salary of “roundabout £400,000”, adding that his wife had also “taken about £150,000”.
The reasoning behind such a large salary, he said, was that it was “back pay”, following several years in which the company struggled financially. P14 has now posted an updated figure of £655,753 on its balance sheet, which logs the company’s assets, an increase of £1.1 million from the previous accounting period. The overall profit and loss of the firm over the accounting period is not declared.
As the most recent filings reveal, the Dechans also operate other companies within the field, two of which have seen financial boosts over the same period.
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The new P14 accounts show that the parent company, Pain Medical, also under the significant control of Steve and Kate Dechan, has, between December 2019 and June 2021, seen its financial position swell from £100 in assets to more than £9.9 million.
The Pain Medical accounts in turn list another entity as a ‘connected company’, Tracingboard Limited, which filed for the same accounting period on the same day as both P14 and Pain Medical.
Tracingboard, which was only incorporated in April 2020 and is registered to the same address as Pain, retains a net book value of £5.1 million, including a freehold property the company uses to conduct business, as well as a profit and loss account of £2.1 million.
The three companies controlled by the Dechans, therefore, have seen a total asset growth of £13.3 million, not including value held in property.
P14 Medical and Steve Dechan did not respond to our requests for comment.
‘Chuffed to Bits’
During the height of the pandemic, the Dechans purchased a £1.5 million, 17th Century, grade II listed mansion in the Cotswolds. “We’re chuffed to bits” he said, speaking at the time.
Speaking to the BBC about the work of his firm, Dechan said that: “We are an expert company that has been in medical supplies for eight years including PPE that has managed to deliver on a big contract that the ‘big companies’ could not.
“I only know a couple MPs through local campaigning on issues, only met ministers (no current ones) on [general election] campaign trails. Never discussed PPE.”
An investigation by the Good Law Project alleged that P14 had received its contract via the ‘VIP’ lane, set up in the Cabinet Office to fast-track recommendations of eligible firms from the offices of Government ministers and civil servants.
A list of the companies later published by the Government, indicated that the referral had come from Dr Ian Campbell from the UK’s research and development initiative Innovate UK, via Richard James of the Cabinet Office. Dechan had previously denied that P14 was part of the VIP lane process, and provided corroborating evidence to The Times.
Also of note is the fact that after the contracts were awarded to P14 – in October 2020 – Dechan donated £7,500 to the local Stroud branch of the Conservative Party. This is the only time that he has, at present, donated to the Conservatives.
P14 was listed by the National Audit Office as being the seventh largest supplier of PPE between March and July 2020.
Previously, Byline Times and The Citizens established that an eye-watering total of at least £3 billion had been awarded to firms with links to either Conservative donors or those connected via other means to the Conservative Government during the pandemic.
There’s no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the Dechans or the companies involved in this process; it was the Government that suspended normal procurement practices, introduced the VIP lane, and issued the contracts to companies.
This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.