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Lord Ashcroft’s outsourcing firm lands £350m vaccination contract

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Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2021. 11:32 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Lord Michael Ashcroft, British-Belizean peer, businessman and political donor, is said to control a healthcare company which has received a £350 million (BZ$963 million) contract as part of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, according to the website openDemocracy.

Medacs Healthcare plc is a subsidiary of Impellam Group, of which Ashcroft is the largest shareholder and non-executive chair. Medacs is an outsourcing company specializing in providing staff to the National Health Service (NHS) of the UK, social care services and private healthcare providers, and has been advertising for staff to work on the huge vaccination project.

After a falling out with former Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron, Ashcroft has returned to supporting the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

openDemocracy points to a National Audit Office report submitted last year which found that companies with political links were directed to a “VIP lane” for government contracts where bids were ten times more likely to be successful.

The award of a major COVID contract to a firm with close ties to the Tories has sparked further questions about politically connected firms benefiting financially from the UK’s pandemic response.

Impellam describes itself as a “leading global talent acquisition and managed workforce solutions provider”. In 2019, the group’s accounts reported profits of £274.1m. Its healthcare division, Medacs Global Group – Medacs Healthcare is one of its brands – recorded revenues of £245.8m and a gross profit of £46.6m.

Medacs has previously worked with numerous councils across England but this appears to be the company’s first major COVID contract.

The public version of the contract between government and Medacs has been heavily redacted and does not include key sections – including the ‘contract charges’ and details of the services being provided – but it does confirm that Medacs will provide a “temporary workforce to support medical and clinical services in laboratories or to assist the national testing programme in response to Covid-19”.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “As part of our response to this unprecedented global pandemic, we rightly have drawn on the expertise of a number of organizations to support this important work. This includes when establishing the largest diagnostic network in British history, and a test and trace system used by tens of millions of people to reduce rates of coronavirus. Proper due diligence is carried out on all government contracts.”

openDemocracy approached Medacs and Impellam for comment.

In Belize Ashcroft has been spurned by the major political parties for campaign financing, but donated $10 million toward Belize’s COVID-19 fight last April, controlled by a joint special committee of the Government and Ashcroft’s representatives. Later, the owner of his Belize Bank Limited purchased Scotia Bank in Belize, integrating them into Belize’s largest banking operation. He continues to hold interest in developing the Port of Belize and an associated cruise port in Port Loyola among other interests.

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