Press release 10th Feb 2021

Serious and unanswered questions over 'VIP' PPE lane

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February 10, 2021 - In response to the report published by the Public Accounts Committee on the Government's pandemic response plan and procurement practices, Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said:

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic required a rapid public health response on a scale and speed unseen in modern times. Whilst it is understandable that public bodies sought to shortcut procurement processes in order expedite the emergency response, this removed safeguards against corruption. The Government must urgently get back into the habit of open, competitive tendering.

“There remain serious and unanswered questions about the Government’s ‘V.I.P’ lane for PPE suppliers. Our research found 68 COVID-related contracts worth over £3bn that warrant further investigation for one or more risk factors.

“In any other transaction, the known involvement of a politician would slow things down, not speed them up. The procurement high-priority lane merits further investigation in light of its poor record-keeping, lack of transparency and the large amounts of public money involved. As a start, the Government should publish a list of the companies awarded contracts that were referred through the high-priority lane by politicians or their offices, and who it was that referred them. Being more open and accountable is vital to securing public confidence in good government in these unprecedented times.”

 

Notes to editors: 

Transparency International UK is the UK’s leading independent anti-corruption charity.

Transparency International UK has monitored and collected all publicly available contract data from February to November 2020 and continues to monitor procurement for the pandemic response. This includes a catalogue of 68 contracts worth over £3 billion that merit further investigation. 

Transparency International UK’s evidence to the Public Accounts Committee can be found on the Parliament website - https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/18733/pdf/