Where’d the Money Go? Play the thrilling new boardless game

Okay, kids, it’s time to play Where’d the Money Go? I’ve just pulled the special Pandemic Edition out of the box, so make yourself at home and let’s start.

Never played it before? One player–that’d be me–offers footnoted examples of ludicrous spending and wasted money. If I don’t document my claims, I’m out. 

The other players (that’d be you)–

Actually, the other players don’t have a lot to do. You shake their heads, moan, and generally make horrified noises. Or you don’t. Up to you. You leave comments. Then when the time comes, if you live in the relevant country, you vote. High points to the players who vote the rascals out and (more immediately) to the ones who leave funny comments on the blog, although wise, insightful comments are also worth points. 

In fact, any comment’s worth points.

If the current rascals do get voted out, will the replacement set be less rascally? I can’t promise, but this lot has set a high standard, so the odds are good.

Irrelevant photo: a rose

Okay, I start, so I’ll offer up a few recent examples. The older ones have been buried under a blizzard of recent ones and I don’t want to dig them out.

Since the start of the pandemic, the government’s spent £1.5 billion on contracts with companies strongly linked to the Conservative Party, which just happens to be the party in power. I keep seeing the word chumocracy in articles about this.  

Many of these are urgent contracts. Under ordinary circumstances, the government has to advertise for bids instead of just awarding contracts to the closest person in the room. But there’s an exception for urgent contracts. Since the pandemic, lots of contracts have gone–urgently–to the closest person in the room.

How do you get into the room? See above for links with the Conservative Party, I’d guess. 

In exploring the law on this, the Local Government Lawyer website says, “The core question is really, then, is this contract really necessitated by this emergency or is the emergency being used as cover?”

Mmm, maybe not all of them are really necessitated by the emergency. Some have gone for political consulting. One was to research public opinion on the government’s Covid communications. To explain a few of the other contracts, I’d need more words than I have in the bank but, hey, I’m giving you a footnote–one of those things known as a link in this century. Sorry, I’m very much from the last century. If you want more examples, you can dig them out there.

Other contracts were for urgent supplies but are still questionable. 

Example: Anthony Page used to be the secretary of MGM Media, which manages the “brand” of Baroness Mone, a Conservative member of the House of Lords. He’s also a director of a finance firm, Knox Group, which was founded by Mone’s fiance, Doug Barrowman.

Page quit at MGM media and set up a company called PPE Medpro. The Good Law Project calls it a £100 company–I assume that’s how much capital it had. Miraculously, forty-four days later, PPE Medpro was awarded a £122 million contract to supply the government with gowns for health care workers. The contract wasn’t opened up for public bidding. Because, hey, we’re in a crisis here. There’s no time for niceties.

Nobody involved has anything relevant to say, although they’re quoted, except that it’s all fine and an article in the Herald Scotland ends by saying that “there is no suggestion of wrongdoing and the Department of Health said: ‘Due diligence is carried out for all government contracts.’ ”

That translates to, “Don’t sue us.”

On the other hand, the director of the Good Law Project, which dug up the information and is suing the health secretary for breaching UK laws requiring transparency, tweeted, “I am told time and again of profit margins of 10-20% on these contracts. Fortunes large enough to sustain generations are being made by those lucky enough or well connected enough to win them.”

Good Law Project’s website mentions another contract, this one with Ayanda Capital, “a politically connected firm” that got  a £252 million contract to supply face masks for the National Health Service. Most of them turned out to be unusable. 

“Ayanda was guided through the process by the Cabinet Office and enjoyed staggering margins compared to the prices paid to others.” 

Then there’s the Randox company, which got a £347 million six-month extension on a contract. Randox are the good folks whose Covid test kits were recalled last summer when some of the swabs–those things you’re supposed to stick up your pristine nose–were found to be contaminated. 

A Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, earns £100,000 a year as a consultant to Randox, and he was part of a call between the company and the health minister in charge of supplies for the testing program.

I’m sure nothing out of line was discussed. Don’t sue me either. It’s all footnoted. I hope.

Details on urgent, noncompetititive contracts are, by law, supposed to be published within thirty days but have been slow in coming, taking an average of seventy-eight days. As of November 16, information on £4.6 billion worth of contracts hasn’t been released.

In an editorial, the BMJ (which used to be the British Medical Journal but which following a logic they somehow never explained to me is now just the BMJ) said the pandemic “unleashed state corruption on a grand scale” that is “harmful to public health.” It called it “opportunistic embezzlement.” It also–more chillingly but less relevantly to our topic–said politicians are “suppressing science.” 

The BMJ doesn’t usually wade into politics, making it noticeable when it does.

No footnote there. The BMJ‘s behind a paywall. I’m relying on a quote from one of the links above.

You may have notice that I didn’t footnote every fact. The links repeat. I get bored. They all came from the sources I cited. You can throw me out of the game if you like. The person who opens doesn’t get points anyway. They either get thrown out or they don’t.


As a side issue, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has had to put himself into isolation after meeting with an MP who later tested positive for Covid. Pictures show the two men posing maskless and too close together, although I’ll admit that they’re not in each other’s pockets. 

The test and trace system did manage to locate the prime minister and tell him to stay home but it’s better known for the people it doesn’t reach than for the ones it does. Its head is another Conservative member of the House of Lords, Dido Harding. Last time I saw a number, the government had spent £12 billion on it. Consultants are being paid as much as £6,250 per day.

Johnson wants the world to know that he’s “bursting with antibodies” and feeling fine. 

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t any pictures in my mind of what he’s bursting with.


Irrelevantly, the London Economic says that a source close to Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, claims the real reason Boris Johnson fired his brain–that’s Dominic Cummings–is that he leaked an announcement of the current lockdown to the press before Johnson got the news to parliament. 

And in a further moment of irrelevance, and you  will probably have already heard about this, the Moderna vaccine has gone public with preliminary results: It may protect 95.4% of people against Covid and doesn’t need to be kept as cold as the Pfizer vaccine, which has a preliminary report of 90% effectiveness.

The Russian Sputnik V vaccine reported 92% effectiveness. Again, that’s preliminary. 

62 thoughts on “Where’d the Money Go? Play the thrilling new boardless game

  1. While you were looking at the Good Law Project’s website did you sign up for their emails? They make interesting reading, and will probably save you some of the work for these posts, as they bring a lot of information together. Not as funny as your posts, but still worth reading.

    That word ‘chumocracy’ seems to be appearing a lot in some newspapers. I guess they can’t use ‘criminality’ instead. Don’t sue me…


  2. While we’re on irrelevant topics, I just thought you’d like to know that my vegetable garden is going very well this year. To ensure an even better crop next year, over winter can you please compost your Cabinet and their consultants and send them over, so that I can at least enrich my soil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I admit it would prove that they’re good for something–I had my doubts until you suggested that–but the plan has an overwhelming number of practical problems, not the least of which is shipping.

      Sorry. For what it’s worth, lettuce seems to grow well, even for idiots like me who forget to enrich the soil half the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you guys want to trade? We’re firing people for “showing insufficient loyalty” and spending money like drunken sailors for things we may never use.

    I’m sorry, that comment may have been unfair to drunken sailors.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. I think you can multiply this by several powers (in the mathematical sense) and get an approximation of what’s Over Here. It’s so discouraging. Admittedly, I had two teeth filled today (and insurance only covered 50% so payment was up front) and the novocaine is just now wearing off. I’ll try to do better next time. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I hate that feeling of novacaine wearing off. (Lord Google offers me several spellings of the stuff, so I’ll just go with the one I like.)

      You stay safe yourself. I wish it were easy for us all to do that.


  5. For the life of me I can’t find anything remotely funny about opportunistic embezzlement.
    On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me opportunistic embezzlement in a pear tree…
    Nah. Not funny.
    How about Michelle Pfeiffer has just created a vaccine that is 95% effective against opportunistic embezzlement in corrupt government administrations…
    No way. Still not funny.
    I despise opportunistic embezzlement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The more you repeat the phrase opportunistic embezzlement, the more I’m struck by the oddity of the word opportunistic in it. As opposed to planned embezzlement? Is “the opportunity just came to me” considered mitigating circumstances? It makes it sound almost accidental, and I think (although I’m working from impressions on this rather than research) that Johnson’s history as a politician says we should have expected exactly this. As mayor, he oversaw a lot of money thrown at a bridge that wasn’t needed and was never built. He’s said (again, no research here on my part; pure rumor) to have pushed something through regarding cab licensing that brought a shitload of money to a chum. And, I’d assume, so forth. So anyway, it’s an odd phrase.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Back in another life when I taught internal auditing in a community college, I remember 3 factors contributed to the theory that all employees could/would steal from their employer: there must be a perceived need by the embezzler, there must be opportunity as a result of breached security, and the employee must be able to rationalize the deed away as in gosh, I’ll pay this back later.
        Politicians operate on some variation of this theme, no doubt. Planned corruption as in I gotta have more for myself, and the law really doesn’t apply to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Interesting set of factors. My guess on the politicians–and this doesn’t quite match up, but they’re the elements I can think of. First, privatization is good. It’s more efficient, it’s cheaper, it saves us from the big state. That sort of thing. Next, my political allies and the people I went to boarding school with are good people. They’re competent, they have connections, they’ll do a great job. Third, they’ll do me a favor when the time comes. They’re not directly–as far as I know–putting money in their own pockets (at least not illegally–consulting fees are legal) but into their friend’ pockets, who’ll return the favor.

          A hundred years ago, Ida used to type transcripts for a private detective who investigated some employee theft. One of the things he said a lot was, “Beware the disgrunted employee.”

          That’s not a typo. Disgrunted.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey England, hold our beer.

    Rumor has it that Hunter Biden will be nominated as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. [snarf]

    Seriously, I have been watching reruns of the hilarious 1980’s British sitcom Yes Minister. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in how government actually works. It should be mandatory viewing for all political science majors and anyone tempted to enter politics.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Have you read anything by Tariq Ali? I’d recommend “The Extreme Centre”, if you haven’t read it yet. It’s a bit out of date (it’s mostly critical of Blair’s “Third Way” propaganda), but it does address government corruption and cronyism.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The problems with mass Covid testing | Notes from the U.K.

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