View on pandemic procurement: contracts for cronies
A report on government contracts during the earliest wave of the pandemic reveals an astonishing disregard for due diligence as well as process
Supplies of face masks, work gloves and visors’ During the very first six weeks of the pandemic, the federal government given out £10.5bn in contracts which ended up being given without going to competitive tender.’
Seventy seven At prime minister’s thoughts 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 deal with the pandemic. Effectively, that is definitely one of the ways of putting it.
The damning report released this week by federal government auditors, which examined Covid-related contracts handed to companies while in the spring & summer, is actually equally shocking and illuminating. In certain cases, ministers did not so much eliminate “blockages” as overlook about suitable process and due diligence altogether. Cronyism was rampant, as businesses along with the ear of ministers plus Tory MPs accessed large sums of taxpayers’ money.
During the initial 6 months of the pandemic, the federal government given out £10.5bn in contracts that ended up being given without going to cut-throat tender. A “high consideration channel” was created 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 businesses with back links to “politically exposed persons” is seen as high-risk, rather compared to top priority.
Sometimes, officials seem to have been making it up while they went along. The paperwork for several contracts was written retrospectively, weeks after the relevant work was completed. In a few situations, there was insufficient proof explaining why a firm was selected for a specific task. In others it wasn’t clear why the contract couldn’t be put out to competitors.
The National Audit Office article lists a number of eyebrow-raising deals, several 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 trade secretary, Liz Truss, facilitated a £253m face area mask cope with Ayanda Capital, a London based investment firm. The official, it turned away, happened to also be an adviser to Ayanda Capital, but was not integrated in due diligence inspections made following the agreement 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 and the NAO found there was an absence of a user manual to justify the alternative, as well as show consideration of potential conflicts of interest. Topham Guerin, the company that ran the Conservative party’s social media plan during the election, was settled £1.5m for services rendered in the spring. The NAO found no documentary evidence of the government’s requirements when the work began.
In the spring, ministers were scrambling to catch up with the logistics of a pandemic for which the country was woefully ill equipped. In such situations of “extreme urgency”, public procurement laws permit the waiving of regular match rules.
But an expedited process should not become one in which getting a Tory MP or perhaps government adviser on your side, or perhaps on the payroll of yours, opens doors that are actually closed to others. The auditors have concluded that “standards of transparency” were not consistently met by the authorities. That’s to placed mildly. Taxpayers’ cash was used by using a disgraceful disregard for proprieties that should always be observed, actually in a pandemic.