Why is Government refusing to publish contracts?23rd August 2020
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 telling us 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.
If you are in a position to support the legal challenge, you can do so here.
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