PPE suppliers are being vetted by the intelligence agencies, officials have said, as they reveal the Government is now suing multiple companies.
Alex Chisholm, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, said the names of firms offering to sell equipment, such as masks and surgical gowns, are now being run through intelligence databases to guard against fraudsters.
It follows a number of reports that shipments of vital PPE turned out to be defective.
Last month, a major report by the National Audit Office branded the bureaucratic effort to ramp up supply “chaotic”.
Giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Chisholm said officials had accessed the police national database “several hundreds, even thousands of times” over concerns about potential suppliers.
Asked what support he had to guard against international criminal suppliers, he said: “I can confirm we’ve worked closely with intelligence agencies on that matter.”
He also told the committee that the Government was taking legal action against at least two companies relating to the performance of communications contracts related to the PPE effort.
Meanwhile, it emerged that millions of medical gowns bought by the Government from a firm linked to a Tory peer have never been used by the NHS.
Ministers agreed in June to pay £122 million to PPE Medpro, a firm set up only 44 days earlier, to procure around 20 million gowns from factories in China.
However, a BBC investigation found the gear has never been used on the frontline.