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View on pandemic procurement: contracts for cronies

View on pandemic procurement: contracts for cronies

A report on government contracts during the earliest wave of the pandemic reveals an alarming disregard for due diligence and process

Resources of face masks, gloves and visors’ During the initial 6 months of the pandemic, the federal government given out £10.5bn in contracts that ended up being awarded without going to competitive tender.’  

77 At prime minister’s thoughts on Wednesday, Boris Johnson suggested that during the first wave of Covid-19 there had been a want to “remove blockages to the procurement process” to cope with the pandemic. Effectively, that is absolutely one of the ways of putting it.

The damning report released this particular week by federal government auditors, that examined Covid related contracts handed to organizations while in the spring & summer, is equally shocking and illuminating. In a few instances, ministers did not so much get rid of “blockages” as forget about suitable process and due diligence altogether. Cronyism was unrestrained, as companies along with the ear of ministers and Tory MPs accessed huge sums of taxpayers’ cash.

During the first six weeks of the pandemic, the federal government given out £10.5bn in contracts which had been awarded without going to competitive tender. A “high priority channel” was established for PPE bids which were championed by a minister or an MP, and were thus judged more credible. As governance consultants have pointed out, within ordinary circumstances businesses with backlinks to “politically exposed persons” would be seen as high risk, rather compared to of good priority. 

Occasionally, officials appear to have been defining it as up as they went along. The paperwork for some contracts was composed retrospectively, weeks after the relevant job was done. In a few cases, there was insufficient documentation explaining why a firm was selected for a specific job. In others it wasn’t very clear why the deal couldn’t be put out to competition.

The National Audit Office report lists a compilation of eyebrow-raising deals, several of which have just come to light as consequence of investigations by this specific and other media organisations. A authorities adviser to the Board of Trade and the international trade secretary, Liz Truss, facilitated a £253m face conceal cope with Ayanda Capital, a London-based investment firm. The official, it turned away, took place to also be an adviser to Ayanda Capital, but was not included in due diligence examinations made following the contract was awarded. The 50m masks ordered were judged unsuitable.

Two former aides to Michael Gove had been awarded a contract for as much as £840,000, to do focus groups on the government’s pandemic response. The agreement was retrospectively written up as well as the NAO found there was a lack of a user manual to justify the choice, and show consideration of possible conflicts of interest. Topham Guerin, the business which ran the Conservative party’s social networking campaign during the election, was settled £1.5m for services made in the spring. The NAO discovered no documentary proof of the government’s needs when the effort started.

In the spring, ministers had been scrambling to get up with the strategic planning of a pandemic for which the nation was woefully ill-equipped. In such type of circumstances of “extreme urgency”, public procurement regulations permit the waiving of normal competition rules.

But an expedited process shouldn’t become one in which having a Tory MP or perhaps government adviser on the side of yours, or perhaps on your payroll, opens doors which are actually closed to others. The auditors have concluded that “standards of transparency” were not consistently met by the government. That’s to set it mildly. Taxpayers’ cash was used with a disgraceful disregard for proprieties that should constantly be observed, actually in a pandemic.

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