A firm linked to a Conservative minister was handed more than £1million of contracts during the Covid pandemic by a Government-owned company, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Recruitment company SThree was handed the contracts while still counting Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi as a shareholder.
The multi-millionaire vaccines minister was a non-executive director at the publicly listed firm until 2017 when he stepped down to focus on his political career.
A firm linked to a Conservative minister Nadhim Zahawi was handed more than £1million of contracts during the Covid pandemic by a Government-owned company, the Daily Mail can reveal. Pictured: Zahawi is given a dose of Covid-19 vaccine
However, he listed a shareholding worth at least £70,000 in the firm on the most recent register of MPs’ interests.
Since the UK was first placed in lockdown in March last year, SThree has been awarded contracts totalling more than £1.1million to provide temporary staff to a Government-owned company.
The contract awards were made by UK Shared Business Services (UK SBS), which is owned by the Department for Business.
Mr Zahawi was a junior minister in that department until last November when he was appointed vaccines minister.
UK SBS supplies HR, finance, procurement and IT expertise to a number of public research bodies in the UK.
Public Health England, an agency of the Department of Health, also gave SThree a contract worth £95,000 last December to provide emergency staff as part of its effort to tackle the pandemic.
The ‘emergency purchase’ was made without a formal contract and a notice was only published last month.
Last night, shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves, said: ‘This demonstrates once again the cosy relationship between ministers, their commercial interests and contracts paid for with taxpayers’ money.
‘[The fact that] companies with a link to ministers can win millions in contracts paid for by taxpayers will leave British businesses in despair.
‘Government have got to clean up these crony contracts, otherwise it appears it’s just one rule for them, another for everyone else.’
Mr Zahawi listed shares worth at least £70,000 in SThree on the register of MPs’ interests when it was updated last Monday.
He also added ownership of a new property in Dubai during the update.
Recruitment company SThree was handed the contracts while still counting Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi as a shareholder. Pictured: Zahawi speaks on the BBC
In addition, he has listed his SThree shareholding on the list of ministers’ interests, which is published separately.
However, Mr Zahawi told the Mail last night that he had now sold his shares in SThree and added that the register would be updated.
He continued: ‘I have had no contacts/business discussions with SThree or any of its directors or employees since leaving the company.’
The minister, a former adviser to David Cameron, was once described as one of Parliament’s richest MPs for his multi-million property portfolio and six-figure second jobs.
Before rising through the ranks of the Tory party, he was best known as the wealthy founder and former chief executive of pollster YouGov. Records show that Mr Zahawi was made a director of SThree in 2008, where he earned £40,000 a year to serve as a non-executive director attending monthly board meetings.
He unwound some of his business interests before being appointed education minister in a 2018 reshuffle by then prime minister Theresa May.
The multi-millionaire vaccines minister was a non-executive director at the publicly listed firm until 2017 when he stepped down to focus on his political career
Mr Zahawi, who was first elected in 2010, took on a £241,500-a-year part-time role at oil firm Gulf Keystone in 2015 while still serving as an MP. Transparency records show he was paid bonuses of £78,000 by the firm in 2016 and a £253,000 bonus in early 2017 before quitting in 2018.
SThree could not be reached for comment. It is not suggested the company did anything wrong.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that junior minister Chris Philp co-owns a firm that has benefited from a Government-backed Covid support scheme.
The Tory MP and immigration minister holds a stake in Pluto Finance, a company that offers loans to property developers.
Last month, it was accredited as a lender under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) – a Government scheme aimed at supporting small businesses harmed by the pandemic.
Mr Philp, who formerly worked for US consulting giant McKinsey, lists shareholdings of more than 15 per cent in a number of companies associated with Pluto Finance.
When he was elected in 2015, it was reported he would take a step back from the day-to-day running of the company.
He notified the Government and Parliament about the company’s connection to the scheme last week. A spokesman said Mr Philp had no role in the application and did not discuss it with anyone in any Government department.