The government has taken civil action against PPE Medpro, the company at the center of a row over the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Covid pandemic.
The company said the case over the supply of sterile gowns would be ‘rigorously defended’ and accused the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of a ‘cynical attempt to recover money from suppliers “who acted in good faith.
The DHSC said it had launched breach of contract proceedings, worth £122million, over the 2020 deal to supply dresses.
A statement released by PPE Medpro said: “PPE Medpro will demonstrate to the courts that we have supplied our gowns to the correct specifications, on time and at a very competitive price.
“The case will also show DHSC’s complete incompetence to properly procure and specify PPE during the emergency supply period. This will be the true legacy of the trial, and it will play out in the public arena for all to see.
The company has been at the center of controversy in Westminster, with Tory peer Baroness Mone taking a leave of absence from the Lords following allegations linking her to it.
Reports, denied by Lady Mone, have suggested she may have taken advantage of the company winning contracts worth more than £200million to supply equipment after recommending it to ministers at the start of the pandemic.
The company says DHSC is “grossly over-ordered”
The PA news agency understands the dispute is over the contract price of the dresses, plus the cost of storing and disposing of them.
But PPE Medpro claimed the department was battling over “contractual technicalities”, such as whether the gowns were single- or double-packed, because it had “grossly over-ordered” protective equipment.
The company said it made “many attempts to mediate with DHSC” but “they didn’t want to settle.”
The statement from PPE Medpro said: “Over a two-month period, from July to the end of August 2020, PPE Medpro provided DHSC with 25 million sterile gowns.
“The gowns were made to the correct quality, standards and specifications set out in the contract, delivered on time and at a price that was 50% of what DHSC paid at the time.”
But “by the end of 2020, it was clear that DHSC had vastly over-ordered and held five years of PPE supply across all seven major categories, including gowns” and due to the limited lifespan of the products “it was clear that DHSC would never be able to use all the PPE they procured.”
“Numerous attempts at mediation”
“Consultants were then brought in to screen all the contracts and fight the product not on quality but on technical aspects of the contract that had never been contemplated at the time of the contract,” the statement said.
“For example, the PPE Medpro contract never specified the double packaging of gowns. Yet, it became clear by the end of 2020 that all gown makers who had correctly produced single-bag gowns were being unfairly challenged by the DHSC.
“Despite numerous attempts to mediate with the DHSC, it was clear that they did not want to settle.
“Too many gowns and other PPE items that will never enter the supply chain. This is why DHSC currently has 174 disputes with suppliers worth £4 billion. of this product will be incinerated or given away.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have commenced legal proceedings in the High Court against PPE Medpro Limited for breach of contract in relation to gowns supplied under a contract dated June 26, 2020.
“We do not comment on matters that are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.”