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Wednesday 15 July 2020

Polecat Pals And Government Contracts

Last Friday, Peter Geoghegan and David Conn had an article published by Open Democracy headlined “Key Cummings and Gove ally given COVID-19 contract without open tender … Cabinet Office accused of breaching rules after handing £840,000 contract to PR firm run by co-author of the 2019 Tory manifesto for focus groups initially listed as 'EU Exit Comms’”. It was a very close ally of Cummings and Gove, too.
Public First, a small policy and research company in London’s Tufton Street [they’re at #11, before you ask], is run by James Frayne - whose work alongside Cummings dates back to a Eurosceptic campaign 20 years ago - and Rachel Wolf, a former advisor to Gove who co-wrote the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto”. Do go on.

The government justified the absence of a competitive tendering process, which would have enabled other companies to bid, under emergency regulations that allow services to be urgently commissioned in response to the COVID-19 crisis … However the Cabinet Office’s public record states that portions of the work, which involved conducting focus groups, related to Brexit rather than COVID-19”. And there was more.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said that this was due to bookkeeping methods, insisting that all the focus group research done by Public First was in fact related to the coronavirus crisis … Government work is legally required to be put out for competitive tender, so that a company best qualified to carry it out is appointed, except under exceptional circumstances such as an unforeseen emergency”. This smells moderately ripe.

But, as the Guardian’s George Monbiot has observed, the story has not been picked up elsewhere, not even by broadcasters. He quite reasonably asks why contracts are being awarded to companies, some of whom have so little in assets that they are being paid significant amounts up front - payments which exceed the Government’s limits.

He goes on to tell “There are plenty of other cases: such as the employment agency with net assets of £623 that was awarded an £18m government contract to supply face masks; the confectionery wholesaler that according to the [Good Law Project] was given a £100m contract to supply PPE; and the £250m channelled through a ‘family office’ registered in Mauritius, specialising in currency trading, offshore property and private equity, also to supply protective medical equipment. Altogether, billions of pounds’ worth of contracts appear to have been granted, often to surprising companies, without competition”.
In the case of the Open Democracy story, Monbiot notes that the GLP has “issued proceedings in the high court against Gove, alleging breaches of procurement law and apparent bias in the granting of the contract to his longstanding associates” (the action is being crowdfunded, see HERE). The CrowdJustice page is titled “Just how does public money end up in the pockets of Cummings' friends?” And Monbiot has this caution.

This is not just about value for money, important as that is. Transparent, competitive tendering is a crucial defence against cronyism and corruption. It is essential to integrity in public life and public trust in politics. But the government doesn’t seem to care … We know it cheats and lies. It knows that we know, and it doesn’t care”.

It seems the broadcasters, and most of the press, doesn’t care either. Worrying.
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Jez Box said...

Happy to contribute to crowd funding.

J said...

I'm sure the TPA will be along any moment now to complain about non-tendering and government waste and largess...

Wait, what do you mean they don't give two fycks when its the tory party spending like a drunk man in a pub (or in their case, a rich knobs spending on magnums of Bollinger and smashing up wine bars)?

The Long and (S)Wind(l)ing Road said...

11 Tufton Street.
Is the (non)Taxpayers' Alliance at 55 Tufton Street saying anything about this? /It's a rhetorical question/

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, for all his "I'm an anarchist, I create chaos, superforcasting".......DomCum is just a grubby, little money grabber like the rest of them

Anonymous said...

Competitive tendering DOESN'T GUARANTEE QUALITY.

Invariably the lowest tender is accepted, whatever the conditional caveats. This means THE GUARANTEE IS CHEAPNESS.

Hence the capitalist culture of shabby.

Land of Hopeless Tories said...

Definition of "invariably"
: on every occasion : ALWAYS
I know of many instances where the lowest tender wasn't accepted because the lowest tender was of low quality i.e. shabby.
As you appear to be an apologist for Cummings and Johnson's Band of Blunders, the words that you have tendered for consideration are crap and therefore in line with a shit government.

Anonymous said...

@ 18:03.

It's fuck all to do with Bozo and Softshite. The subject is competitive tendering.

Tip: Engage brain before misreading like a, well, a lowest tenderer.

The 14:53 post stands.

Land of Hopeless Tories said...

"Engage brain before misreading"
What a stupid suggestion.
In my post, I wrote that it isn't always the bid with the lowest price that gets the contract so your belief that the lowest tender "Invariably" gets the deal is crap.