British minister defends multi-million pound PPE deals after critical audit

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma refused to apologise for a lack of transparency in spending millions of pounds of tax-payer money to secure personal protection equipment, saying the government was under huge pressure to supply the front line.

“The NAO (National Audit Office) report has acknowledged that we had to do things at a great deal of pace,” he told BBC television. “The key pressure was to get PPE. We had to do an enormous amount, work very fast to secure the PPE and that’s what we did.”

The NAO said there had been a lack of transparency and a failure to explain why certain suppliers were chosen, or how any conflict of interest was dealt with, over 18 billion pounds ($24 billion) in procurement deals made between March and the end of July, often with no competition.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle; Editing by Kate Holton