High Court finds UK government acted illegally on contract
LONDON (Reuters) – The High Court in London has found that the UK government acted illegally in awarding a contract to a public relations firm run by associates of the former chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings.
The court accepted a complaint that the government had shown “apparent bias” in awarding more than 560,000 pounds ($ 794,000) to Public First.
The Good Law Project, a campaign group, has filed a lawsuit against the government, saying the contract was awarded without a tender at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The June 5, 2020 decision to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was illegal,” the court said.
“Failure by the defendant to consider any other research organization, based on its experience, expertise, availability or capacity, would lead an impartial and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility , or a real danger, that the decision-maker has been biased.
Cummings said he was more concerned with trying to save lives than ensuring that all decisions made during the first wave of the pandemic were legal in the eyes of the court.
“Based on this, the courts have ruled that many of the 2020 rulings were also ‘illegal’ as I and the Cabinet Secretary have repeatedly told officials to” focus on the imminent threats of life / destruction, not the Potemkin’s process / lawyers / written records, “he said in a tweeter.
The National Audit Office said last year that there had been a lack of transparency and an inability to explain why certain suppliers were chosen, or how any conflicts of interest were addressed, in supply agreements between March and late July worth around £ 18 billion.
Opposition politicians accused the government of running a “chumocracy” with contracts, including the purchase of what turned out to be unusable personal protective equipment, and appointments made to those who have family or business ties with those in power.
Public First is led by James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, both of whom have previously worked with Cummings and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove. Cummings stepped down as Johnson’s chief advisor late last year. Gove remains in office.
A spokesperson for Public First said he was proud of the work he did at the start of the pandemic and the judge found weak internal processes giving rise to the appearance of bias.
“The judge made no criticism of Public First anywhere in the judgment,” he said.
(Report by Andrew MacAskill and William Schomberg, edited by Estelle Shirbon, Alistair Smout and Timothy Heritage)