Government ‘wastes’ millions on faulty coronavirus face masks that cannot be worn by the NHS staff

An example of the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) used to shield people from infections

An example of the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) used to shield people from infections like coronavirus; Victoria Jones - Credit: PA

The government has been accused of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on face masks that do not meet NHS safety standards.

The government purchased 50 million faulty face masks as part of a £252 million contract but failed to notice they lacked head loops.

The masks, ordered from Ayanda Capital, have ear loops rather than head loops, which means NHS staff cannot secure them to protect their face.

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On its website, Ayanda Capital says it is 'family office' investment firm focused on currency trading, offshore property, and private equity and trade financing.

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Yet the government pressed ahead with a multi-million-pound contract with the firm in April and were forced to cough up £41.25 million as a prepayment to ensure supply, which Ayunda used to secure a supply from a factory in China.

Campaigners The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor are now suing the government over its Ayanda contract which it estimates cost taxpayers £150 million in faulty masks.

Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, said: 'The Good Law Project wrote to government on three contracts each worth over a hundred million pounds - with respectively a pest control company, a confectioner and a family hedge fund.

'Each of those contracts has revealed real cause for alarm - including, on Ayanda, that around £150 million was spent on unusable masks. What other failures remain undiscovered?'

Meanwhile, Julia Patterson, founder of EveryDoctor, said: 'It is horrifying that during the worst crisis in the NHS's history, the government entrusted large sums of public money in the hands of companies with no experience in procuring safe Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.'

The government has confirmed in court papers that the masks, which are now in the Department of Health and Social Care's (DHSC) logistic chain, will not be used in the NHS.

The documents also revealed that Andrew Mills, a director to the UK Board of Trade, set up the deal at the same time he was a senior board advisor to Ayanda.

Mills told the BBC his position played no part in the award of the contract, the broadcaster reported.

Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the case for the National Audit Office to investigate the government's mishandling of PPE is 'overwhelming', adding: 'It is astounding that ministers allowed the national PPE stockpile to run down and then spent millions with an offshore finance company with no history of providing vital equipment for the NHS.'

Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus Layla Moran said a clear strategy for procuring PPE is urgently needed, adding: 'The government has serious questions to answer over this shocking waste of taxpayers' money.'

A government spokesman said: 'Throughout this global pandemic, we have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect people on the front line.

'Over 2.4 billion items have been delivered and more than 30 billion have been ordered from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply, which meets the needs of health and social care staff both now and in the future.

'There is a robust process in place to ensure orders are of high quality and meet strict safety standards, with the necessary due diligence undertaken on all government contracts.'

Ayanda Capital has not responded to a request for comment.

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