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A lobbying firm run by allies of Dominic Cummings was handed a contract worth £900,000 to conduct public opinion polling on the coronavirus pandemic. The contract was awarded to Hanbury Strategy without any advertisement or competitive tender process. And it was awarded to Hanbury despite the fact that – as our sworn evidence discloses – Hanbury was ill-suited to do the bulk of the work and would have had to subcontract it to others. That sworn evidence also suggests that the price paid by Government was “absolutely off the chart”.
Two of three active directors of Hanbury Strategy are Mr Paul Stephenson, a former Conservative advisor and Vote Leave alumni, and Mr Ameetpal Singh Gill, a former advisor to David Cameron. The Government has ignored the law which requires them to publish details of the contract. However, media reports state that the contract came to an end after four months, with Hanbury Strategy having run up a bill of more than half a million pounds. Without details of the contract, we have no way of knowing how they arrived at this huge sum of money.
Ignoring proper procurement practices to hand lucrative contracts to your mates is unlawful. We have issued judicial review proceedings to challenge this award. More details of the claim can be found here.
These aren’t the only long-time associates of Dominic Cummings getting rich from COVID-19. We have already issued judicial review proceedings over a contract awarded to Public First, a small polling company owned by former colleagues of Mr Cummings. Again, the contract was not advertised and no other companies were invited to bid for it.
The Government does not contend its actions are lawful. It says only that we cannot bring these challenges because we do not have standing. They argue only companies who could have bid on these contracts have that right. But other companies operating in this space will not speak out for fear of losing other business.
So it falls to us. We cannot, and will not, stop in our efforts to hold this Government to account.
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