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 as well as process

Resources of face masks, work gloves and visors’ During the first 6 weeks of pandemic, the federal government paid out £10.5bn in contracts which were given without going to competitive tender.’  

77 At prime minister’s thoughts on Wednesday, Boris Johnson recommended that during the first wave of Covid 19 there had been a want to “remove blockages to the procurement process” to deal with the pandemic. Well, that is certainly one of the ways of applying it.

The damning report released this particular week by federal government auditors, which examined Covid related contracts handed to companies while in the spring and summer, is both shocking and illuminating. In a few cases, ministers didn’t so much remove “blockages” as overlook about suitable process and due diligence entirely. Cronyism was unrestrained, as companies together with the ear of ministers plus Tory MPs accessed large sums of taxpayers’ money.

During the first six months of pandemic, the government paid out £10.5bn in contracts that ended up being awarded without going to competitive tender. A “high priority channel” was put in place for PPE bids which were championed by an MP or a minister, and were therefore judged more reliable. As governance consultants have pointed out, within normal circumstances businesses with backlinks to “politically exposed persons” is seen as high-risk, rather compared to of exceptional priority. 

Sometimes, officials seem to have been making it up as they went along. The paperwork for certain contracts was written retrospectively, months after the relevant job was done. In specific cases, there was insufficient documentation outlining why a firm was picked for a particular task. In others it wasn’t clear why the deal could not be put out to competitors.

The National Audit Office report lists a series of eyebrow raising deals, several of which have only come to light-weight as result of investigations by this along with other media organisations. A federal government adviser to the Board of Trade and the international swap secretary, Liz Truss, facilitated a £253m face area mask cope with Ayanda Capital, a London-based investment firm. The official, it turned out, took place to also be an adviser to Ayanda Capital, but was not integrated in due diligence checks made after the deal was awarded. The 50m masks bought were judged unsuitable.

Two former aides to Michael Gove were awarded a contract for up to £840,000, to conduct focus organizations on the government’s pandemic response. 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 potential conflicts of interest. Topham Guerin, the business enterprise that ran the Conservative party’s social networking campaign throughout the election, was paid £1.5m for services rendered in the springtime. The NAO found no documentary evidence of the government’s requirements before the effort began.

In the springtime, ministers had been scrambling to get up with the strategies of a pandemic for that the land was woefully ill equipped. In such situations of “extreme urgency”, public procurement regulations permit the waiving of regular competition rules.

But an expedited procedure shouldn’t be one in which getting a Tory MP or government adviser on your side, 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’s to set it mildly. Taxpayers’ cash was used by way of a disgraceful disregard for proprieties which should always be noticed, actually in a pandemic.