Concerns over whether personal protective equipment (PPE) bought by the Isle of Wight Council was ethically sound have been dismissed.
Between 1st April and 30th September, 2 PPE contracts worth more than £1.6 million were awarded to suppliers by the Isle of Wight Council. The first was for £41,000 of antibacterial products and the second £1,583,000 was for aprons, masks and gloves.
However, the council is not saying who the contracts were awarded to.
PPE provided by the council has been essential in ensuring the safety of frontline health and social care staff who have continued working during the pandemic and used as an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
At the Isle of Wight Council’s audit committee yesterday morning (Monday), Councillor Michael Lilley spoke of the national criticism the government has been facing due to its choice of PPE providers.
An investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) has raised questions into the way PPE contracts were handed out by the government, finding £10.5 billion worth of contracts were directly awarded without a competitive tendering process. The NAO also found companies recommended by MPs, peers and ministers’ offices were given priority and the government was not transparent about suppliers and services.
Cllr Lilley asked for assurance the Isle of Wight Council’s procurement did not ‘pay middle people who made a large profit out of the pandemic’.
Hayley Holden, procurement and contracts manager, said the authority had been able to respond quickly in the early stages of the pandemic to guarantee a PPE supply. She said:
“We were really fortunate to purchase PPE items through pre-approved central framework agreements.
“They are compliant with all of the relevant procurement regulations that we need to follow as a public sector body.
“All those suppliers are pre-vetted and they have already been through quite a robust process to even be on the framework agreement.
“I can confidently say we are not in the same position as others may have found themselves in.”
Contracts awarded by the council are being funded through COVID-19 money provided especially by the government, and not the council’s usual budget.
The name of companies awarded the Isle of Wight Council’s PPE contract has not been provided in the reports for the audit committee.