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An independent Government review into the awarding of lucrative contracts to allies of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove has found that in future there must be “a clear process for managing risk regarding conflicts of interest”, that “Cabinet Office should strengthen its model for the management of actual and perceived conflicts of interest in procurements”, and that it is “essential for these senior officials to… create the conditions that enable robust and constructive challenge”. Government has only published the recommendations from that review but it is not easy to see why those recommendations would have been made if they did not reflect pre-existing poor practice.
On Government’s own admission, the independent review was launched as a result of litigation being brought by Good Law Project over very substantial sums of money awarded to Public First and Hanbury Strategy. The roll call of directors at the two companies include former Conservative advisors, ex-colleagues of Gove and Cummings and Vote Leave alumni. The basis of our both legal challenges is, at its heart, that there was favouritism in the award of these particular contracts.
In other words, the Government’s own review suggests that we are very much on to something.
A Cabinet Office Minister has now said the Government will be taking on all of the recommendations from the independent review in full. We will of course keep a keen eye on what that looks like in practice. In the meantime, our judicial reviews continue. We will see Government in court over the Public First contract in February.
It is difficult to imagine how we would have reached this point without bringing litigation – or without the thousands of ordinary people who helped fund it. It’s proof once again that the law is a powerful tool with which to hold this Government to account.
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