A contract worth £108m ($137m) to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff was awarded to a small family pest control company.
PestFix, a firm of 16 staff with net assets of £18,000, became the government’s largest PPE supplier last month, The Times reports.
A number of companies were awarded multi-million pound contracts to provide face masks, gowns and visors despite lacking experience in the field.
Double Dragon International Ltd was commissioned to supply medical and surgical face masks to the NHS, in a £2.15m contract despite being a wholesaler of coffee, tea, cocoa and spices.
The contracts were approved by the government in early April when ministers were under immense pressure to improve the supply of PPE to hospitals and care homes.
Whitehall received thousands of offers of help and paid a call centre supplier £200,000 to clear a backlog of around 5,000 offers.
The National Audit Office and parliament’s public accounts committee have announced they will be scrutinising the contracts to ensure they represented value for money.
“The need for PPE for frontline staff is urgent and critical but tendering outside the normal rules can be risky,” Meg Hillier, chair of the committee and Labour MP, told The Times.
More than £340m has been committed to procure PPE for health and social care workers but the majority of deals were agreed without a competitive tender process under emergency rules implemented in March.
According to government records PestFix, which sells supplies for pest control, secured its hundred million pound contract after responding to the call for help from British companies.
Dan England, co-founder of PestFix has disputed the published £108m value.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Times repeatedly criticised our efforts to get PPE to the front line, yet is now claiming that it is costing too much to do so. Our priority is to protect health and social care staff, including making sure they have the equipment they need to do their job safely.”