Press release 18th Nov 2020

Response to public spending watchdog report on Government COVID-19 procurement

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November 18 - The National Audit Office (NAO) has today reported a lack of transparency and adequate documentation of some key decisions, such as why particular suppliers were chosen or how government identified and managed potential conflicts of interest, in the awarding of some contracts while government was procuring large volumes of goods and services at high speed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some contracts were also awarded after work had already begun, and many were not published in the timeframe they should have been.

In response, Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, said:

“The existence of a fast-track for well-connected companies with links to Ministers and officials will do little to quell concerns about cronyism in UK Government procurement. Poor paperwork, uncompetitive tendering and large amounts of money create an environment where at worst there is increased risk of corruption – at best poor value for taxpayers’ money.

“While the pandemic has put tremendous pressure on the government to respond swiftly,  it has resulted in key safeguards being dropped. Instead of receiving timely information about who received which contract and when, we’re still in the dark about how large amounts of public money are being spent.  It’s time to restore the protections of competitive contracting.”