Contract won by peer’s firm was worth almost double what was advertised
A company owned by a Conservative peer who has become embroiled in the row over the cost of refurbishing the prime minister’s home was paid to examine complaint processes at the Student Loans Company.
Outsourcing firm Huntswood CTC, where Conservative peer and former Conservative Party vice-chairman David Brownlow is a director, won a contract with the Student Loans Company in 2017 that was worth almost double the amount advertised.
According to the government’s contract-finder webpage, the firm was awarded £60,000 to supply a “complaints handling review” to the SLC under a contract that ran from 20 December 2017 to 19 December 2018, while Brownlow was the Conservative Party vice-chair. The page shows the tender was advertised for £32,600.
There is no suggestion Lord Brownlow, Huntswood CTC or the SLC acted improperly, or that the contract was awarded on anything other than merit.
A spokesperson for the SLC said: “SLC procured a third party, via request to quote, to support a strategic review of our complaints handling process. In line with government commercial regulations and guidance the request for quote was issued to four suitable organisations. The resulting contract was awarded and delivered in phases as stipulated in the initial request to quote.”
Request to quote and request for quote refer to the process in which a company solicits suppliers, and those suppliers provide a quote for the service.
The SLC did not comment on why the contract awarded was greater than the advertised amount.
Research Professional News asked Huntswood CTC for a response, specifically about the value of the contract. The company has declined to comment.
Huntswood CTC has been awarded other public contracts, and in 2017 it was one of 37 suppliers awarded a place on a framework run by the Financial Conduct Authority worth up to £120 million.
Brownlow and his companies have been under scrutiny over his alleged work to help fund prime minister Boris Johnson’s refurbishment costs, which are reported to have exceeded the £30,000 annual allowance available to prime ministers for this purpose.
According to an email seen by the Daily Mail newspaper, Brownlow offered to pay the Conservative Party a £58,000 donation towards the cost of renovating No 11 Downing Street.