Why was £108m of public money paid to Crisp Websites Limited?

by EveryDoctor and Good Law Project

Why was £108m of public money paid to Crisp Websites Limited?

by EveryDoctor and Good Law Project
EveryDoctor and Good Law Project
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EveryDoctor works for a future where every patient and every doctor is safe. Good Law Project is a not for profit that uses strategic litigation for a better world.
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Latest: July 15, 2020

The PPE fiasco

More details of PPE fiasco that left hundreds of doctors and nurses dead are starting to emerge.

Whilst our EU partners were putting together emergency procurement arrangements in late January, it was…

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How on earth did a company - Crisp Websites Limited - with last reported net assets of £18,047 win a contract worth £108m - and why was there apparently no bidding process? 

The bare facts are quite remarkable. Here is the filing history of Crisp Websites Limited showing at 30 November 2019 it had net assets of £18,047. Here is the Official Journal publication of the 12 month £108m contract it entered into with Matt Hancock's department. That publication states there was only one bidder for that contract.

From these bare facts, a quite remarkable series of questions arise.

1. Was this contract ever advertised? If so, where? No one we have spoken to is aware of any advertisement.

2. If it was not advertised, how was Crisp Websites Limited chosen? Who was the decision maker? How did the name of this tiny company come to be placed before the decision maker?

3. Why was Crisp Websites Limited chosen? You can only award a contract without advertising where “there is only one supplier … with capacity to complete on the scale required”. How could Government possibly think Crisp Websites Limited was that company?

4. Why did Government wait until April until to procure PPE? You can only award a contract without advertising where there is unforeseeable “extreme urgency”? How could the need for PPE have been unforeseeable in April when the EU knew that there was an urgent need for procurement in February?  

5. Why has Government ignored its own guidance requiring publication of the contract within 20 days? It is now more than two months on and the contract has still not been published.

6. How was a company with net assets of £18,000 put in a position where it could cashflow a contract to purchase £108m of PPE? 

7. Why did Government use the "extreme urgency" procedure to buy PPE for March 2021? The contract, entered into in April 2020, ran for 12 months.

Dominic Cummings has written - see to take one example this - of his dislike of EU procurement rules which guarantee transparency and see to ensure value for money. 

But if this is his brave new world we're not sure we like it.

There are still reports of inadequate PPE - even before we contemplate the possibility of a subsequent wave or waves to the pandemic. Only with good procurement practice, can we safeguard the lives of the public and healthcare workers.



Along with EveryDoctor, we have instructed leading procurement lawyers Jason Coppell QC and Brendan McGurk and Rook Irwin Sweeney. You can read our pre-action protocol letter here and the court bundle here.

10% of the sums raised will go to the Good Law Project to help it develop and support further litigation in the public interest. It is our policy only to raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. However, if there is a surplus it will go to support and enable other litigation we bring. Our founder, Jo Maugham QC, continues to work unpaid.  




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Update 2

EveryDoctor and Good Law Project

July 15, 2020

The PPE fiasco

More details of PPE fiasco that left hundreds of doctors and nurses dead are starting to emerge.

Whilst our EU partners were putting together emergency procurement arrangements in late January, it wasn’t until March that Government put together an emergency scheme to protect our doctors and nurses and care workers.

By then the global market for PPE had tightened considerably and Government was having to play catch up – ditching the normal rules that secure good value for public money and which guard against corruption in the process. On 27 March Government opened its portal inviting tenders for PPE on the gov.uk website and received 24,000 offers from 16,000 suppliers. It spent – this is Government’s figure – a staggering £5.5bn. And, surprisingly, three of the biggest beneficiaries were companies specialising in pest control, a confectionery wholesaler and an opaque private fund owned through a tax haven.

Why? We do not know. And Government is not helping – it has ignored the usual rule that contracts should be published within 20 days.

But Good Law Project, working with EveryDoctor, means to find out. Our intention is to pursue judicial review claims in respect of the Pestfix, Clandeboye and Ayanda contracts. But we will keep these contracts under review – and we may substitute others if better examples emerge.

Litigation of this scale and importance is undeniably difficult and expensive. It is only possible thanks to your support


Good Law Project and EveryDoctor has instructed Rook Irwin Sweeney in this case. You can read correspondence with the Government Legal Department below: 

10th June: We issued a Pre Action Protocol Letter over the Government’s decision to award a PPE contract to PestFix (available here)
16th June: We received an initial response from the Government: (available here)
17th June: We received further correspondence from the Government Legal Department, which stated the initial contract award notice had been issued ‘in error’: (available here)
29th June: We issued a Pre Action Protocol Letter over the Government’s decision to award a PPE contract to Clandeboye: (available here)
1st July: Government Legal Department response: (available here)
3rd July: We received a response from Osborne Clark, who are instructed on behalf of PestFix: (available here)
3rd July: We sent a letter to the Government Legal Department regarding Clandeboye: (available here)

Update 1

EveryDoctor and Good Law Project

July 4, 2020

Another £108m for PPE - this time to a sweet vendor

Not just pest control.

The Government has awarded £108 million in contracts for the supply of PPE to a wholesaler of sweets. The enormous contract was awarded to the confectionery business seemingly without any advertising or competitive tendering process. There is no evidence that the company, Clandeboye Agencies Limited, has any experience in supplying PPE.

The more we scratch the surface about the PPE contracts awarded by Government, the more serious questions that arise. Enormous amounts of public money have been dished out, seemingly without any advertising or competitive tendering process. To protect public funds and to try and prevent further PPE procurement failures, we intend to get answers. We have sent a letter before action to the Government in respect of Clandeboye - and will keep you posted.

Jolyon Maugham

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