View on pandemic procurement: contracts for cronies
A report on government contracts during the very first trend of the pandemic reveals an astonishing disregard for due diligence as well as process
Resources of face masks, gloves and visors’ During the first 6 weeks of the pandemic, the government given out £10.5bn in contracts which ended up being awarded without going to cut-throat tender.’
77 At prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson suggested that while in the first wave of Covid-19 there had been a need to “remove blockages to the procurement process” to cope with the pandemic. Effectively, that’s certainly a proven way of adding it.
The damning report released this week by federal government auditors, which examined Covid related contracts handed to businesses during the springtime and summer, is both shocking and illuminating. In some instances, ministers didn’t so much get rid of “blockages” as forget about suitable process as well as due diligence entirely. Cronyism was unrestrained, as companies with the ear of ministers and Tory MPs accessed large sums of taxpayers’ money.
During the initial six weeks of the pandemic, the governing administration paid out £10.5bn in contracts that ended up being awarded without going to competitive tender. A “high goal channel” was established for PPE bids which were championed by a minister or an MP, and were therefore judged more reliable. As governance consultants have pointed out, in ordinary circumstances companies with back links to “politically exposed persons” is seen as high-risk, rather than of good priority.
Sometimes, officials appear to have been making it up as they went along. The paperwork for some contracts was composed retrospectively, months after the relevant job was completed. In a few instances, there was insufficient proof explaining why a firm was chosen for a specific task. In others it wasn’t clear why the agreement could not be put out to competition.
The National Audit Office report lists a compilation of eyebrow-raising deals, some of which have only come to light-weight as result of investigations by this as well as other media organisations. A authorities adviser to the Board of Trade and the international swap secretary, Liz Truss, facilitated a £253m face conceal deal with Ayanda Capital, a London based investment firm. The official, it turned out, happened to in addition be an adviser to Ayanda Capital, but wasn’t integrated in due diligence inspections made following the deal was awarded. The 50m masks ordered were judged unsuitable.
Two former aides to Michael Gove had been given a contract for as much as £840,000, to do concentration groups on the government’s pandemic effect. The contract was retrospectively written up and also the NAO found there was a lack of a user manual to justify the option, as well as show consideration of possible conflicts of interest. Topham Guerin, the business that ran the Conservative party’s social networking campaign during the election, was paid £1.5m for services rendered in the spring. The NAO found no documentary proof of the government’s needs when the effort started.
In the springtime, ministers had been scrambling to catch up with the strategies of a pandemic for that the country was woefully ill equipped. In such type of situations of “extreme urgency”, public procurement laws permit the waiving of regular competition rules.
But an expedited process shouldn’t become one in which getting a Tory MP or maybe government adviser on the side of yours, or perhaps on the payroll of yours, opens doors that are closed to others. The auditors have concluded that “standards of transparency” were not consistently met by the government. That is to put it mildly. Taxpayers’ cash was used with a disgraceful disregard for proprieties that must always be noticed, even in a pandemic.