9 November 2020 — Good Law Project
Our challenge to Government’s decision to hide COVID-19 spending has led it to disclose that the Department of Health has handed £17 billion worth of COVID-19 contracts to private companies since April. Fresh analysis by Tussell reveals Government has failed to publish details of £4.4billion of these contracts.
In October we revealed £3 billion of spending was unaccounted for. A month on, this figure has jumped.
Moreover, although Government is required by law to publish contract details within 30 days of the award, the average length of time taken to come clean about COVID-19 contracts now stands at a remarkable 78 days. These persistent failures to adhere to the law make it hard for MPs and journalists to perform their vital scrutiny function and harder still for lawyers to challenge procurement choices.
The contracts we do know about are alarming. Take Ayanda Capital, a politically connected firm given a £252 million contract to supply facemasks, the majority of which could not be used by the NHS. Ayanda was guided through the process by the Cabinet Office and enjoyed staggering margins compared to the prices paid to others.
Or PPE Medpro – the £100 company, set up by a former business associate of Conservative peer Baroness Mone, which was awarded contracts worth £200 million, just seven weeks after it was set up.
According to Government our claim for transparency in accordance with UK law “should not be used for the transparent purpose of trying to use the judicial process to embarrass the government at a time of national crisis“.
That this Government views transparency law as something which “embarrasses” them tells you everything you need to know about their disastrous COVID-19 response.
We are left with no choice but to seek answers through the courts. That’s why we – along with cross-party MPs Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – are suing Government for their persistent failure to publish contracts. We await permission to proceed from the court.
Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project