The medical caps that opinion maker and entrepreneur Sywert van Lienden sold to the Ministry of VWS had a reasonable price, were of sufficient quality and could be delivered quickly. That is why the deal, worth more than EUR 100 million, was closed.
That answers Minister Van Ark for Medical Care to questions from D66, PvdA, ChristenUnie and JA21. The Cabinet has always said that at the time the contract was concluded, in April 2020, there was a large shortage of personal protective equipment for care personnel.
Yesterday Follow the Money revealed that Van Lienden had more than 9 million euros left from China, while he kept preventing his organization from working for non-profit purposes. In reality, the mouthcaps were delivered by Van Liendens commercial company Relief Goods Alliance and two business partners. They both made a profit of about 5 million euros.
Image is not good
“ The idea of exorbitant profits being made from an international crisis is not good,” writes Van Ark about it. But the fact that business has been done with a commercial company doesnt matter to her. “The only thing that mattered was to provide care in the Netherlands with sufficient, high-quality mouth masks as soon as possible.”
Van Lienden supplied two types of mouthcaps, for 2.26 euros and 2.78 euros each. The average price requested by providers at that time was between 2.50 euros and 3 euros. Van Liendens asking price was in line with the market, writes Van Ark.
Van Lienden: to non-mythe
Van Lienden himself has responded to Van Arks letter. Against Newshour, he calls it a good start. It became clear that the deal was in order and that the ministry knew very well that business was being done with a BV, says Van Lienden.
According to him, there has been a “to non-myth” about working non-profit. That was true for the Helptroops, not the BV he founded together with his business partners, he says.
The MPs also asked questions about the way in which Van Lienden used his political contacts for the deal. He co-wrote the CDAs election programme and knows many party figures.
According to Van Ark, Van Lienden approached CDA minister De Jonge and his political assistant several times to bring his offer to the attention. But he also had contact with the then Minister for Medical Care Van Rijn (PvdA).
That happened quite often in those days, writes Van Ark. “Offers were brought to the attention of (former) politicians from many parties, including the CDA.” All those offers have, according to her, been carefully looked at and taken into consideration if it could. “That makes that there is no semblance of conflict of interest.”
LCH said no first
It is striking that the National Consortium Assistive (LCH), which purchased and distributed the protective equipment, made it clear to Van Lienden on 15 April 2020 that his offer would not be used. Two days later, the Ministry decided to order 40 million mouthcaps from him.
Van Ark writes about the decision to continue the order: “The aim was to buy better than too little. That was also a clear wish and mandate from your Chamber at the time.”
Because too many mouthcaps were eventually purchased, the 40 million mouthcaps delivered by Van Lienden and his business partners are still in storage. If eventually they cannot be used in healthcare at all, a part will be sold and a part will be recycled, writes Van Ark. A part will also be donated to organisations such as the Poverty Fund and the Food Bank and abroad.