Huge money, weird counterparties, duff product - and no transparency

by Good Law Project

Huge money, weird counterparties, duff product - and no transparency

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
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We bring cases to protect the public interest in transparency and good governance.
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Latest: Nov. 18, 2020

We have a hearing date

I am writing to let you all know that the hearing of this judicial review - about the failure of the Government to adhere to its obligations to be transparent about the contracts it is entering into,…

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These are worrying times. 

We know from Treasury documents that Government has approved a staggering and unprecedented £15 billion for PPE procurement to protect frontline staff. But what we see is implausible counterparties, staggering sums of money, political connections, vast waste on duff product - and most of all a lack of transparency.

The law is clear, mandatory and unconditional: regulation 50 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 gives Government 30 days to publish details of contracts. But Government is routinely ignoring the law. 

According to data produced by Tussell, a data provider, so far only £2.68 billion of PPE spending has been made public. And, even where it has been made public, it has been made public unlawfully late, as can be seen from the chart below, also prepared for Good Law Project by Tussell.

The vast sums of procurement spending without any transparent tender process creates a special need for transparency - and yet we suspect that Government is deliberately holding back details of the most politically sensitive spending. For example, none of the eleven PPE contracts entered into with pest-control specialists Crisp Websites Limited have yet been published despite Government saying on 17 June that "full details will be published in the coming weeks."

A cross-party group of MPs - Caroline Lucas (Green), Debbie Abrahams (Labour) and Layla Moran (LibDem) - alongside Good Law Project have launched legal action against Government for its persistent and unlawful failure to disclose details of COVID-related contracts. 

It is in the nature of opaque contracting that it is difficult to give examples. However, the pre-action protocol letter - which you can read here - does identify a number. And we are working with a leading international news agency to bring you, we hope, an explosive further example.

The legal team

The Claimants have instructed Deighton Pierce Glynn, Jason Coppel QC and Christopher Knight to try and secure transparency in the public interest. They will work at considerably below market rates.

What are we crowdfunding for?

We need your help to cover the costs of running the litigation.

10% of the funds raised will be a contribution to the general running costs of Good Law Project. We will use any surplus to develop other litigation to protect the most disadvantaged.

Good Law Project’s founder, Jo Maugham QC, continues to work unpaid.

Recent contributions

  • Rose pledged £35
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    Getting this government to obey their own laws and operate with transparency is crucial to stopping the distortions of democracy and the corruption of favouring their own cronies and private companies with unaccountable public money, along with covering up the mistakes and incompetancies we pay for.
  • John pledged £35
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    I read in yesterday's Sunday Times of your "interest" in Platform14 which has been given£120 million and £156.00 million to supply masks and gowns items in which the company has never been involved with before .You sent the paperwork to my wife Fay Emerson as it appears that I haven't signed up
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    Thank you for putting pressure on this government to stop throwing taxpayers' money to the winds - or rather their mates.

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Update 4

Good Law Project

Nov. 18, 2020

We have a hearing date

I am writing to let you all know that the hearing of this judicial review - about the failure of the Government to adhere to its obligations to be transparent about the contracts it is entering into, and with whom, and on what terms, including those in its infamous VIP lane - will take place on 3 February 2021. 

Update 3

Good Law Project

Nov. 12, 2020

Permission granted - we’re going to court

We are pleased to announce that our judicial review to challenge the Government’s persistent failure to publish COVID-19 contracts as required by law has been granted permission by the court. The hearing is scheduled for mid-January 2021.

Despite Government’s attempt to argue that we had no standing to bring the claim, the Judge agreed there is an important public interest in securing that Government abides by the law and its own public procurement policy. 

Government is required by law to publish contract details within 30 days of the award. But the average length of time taken to publish COVID-19 contracts now stands at a remarkable 78 days, with over £4billion worth of contracts totally unaccounted for.

The Government’s repeated refusal to come clean has left us - along with cross-party MPs Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran - no option but to compel the Government to come clean through the courts.

It is only with your support that we can continue to hold Government to account. 

Thank you. 

Update 2

Good Law Project

Nov. 9, 2020

The transparency gap grows

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 £4.4 billion of these contracts.

In October we revealed £3 billion of spending was unaccounted for. A month on, this figure has jumped.

Government is required by law to publish contract details within 30 days of the award. But 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. 

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. 

That’s why we – along with cross-party MPs Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – are suing for answers. We await permission to proceed from the court.

It is only with your support that we can continue to hold Government to account. 

Thank you. 

Update 1

Good Law Project

Oct. 10, 2020

We have issued judicial review proceedings

We have now issued judicial review proceedings over the Government’s persistent failure to publish details of contracts within 30 days of their award. We are working with a cross-party group of MPs, Debbie Abrahams, Layla Moran and Caroline Lucas. 

The law can be a powerful tool for accountability. We intend to use it to keep those in power honest. Thank you for your support. 

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