Left Menu
Development News Edition

British PM defends COVID-19 procurement after "chumocracy" accusations

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his government's handling of the procurement of protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, after a spending watchdog said suppliers with political links had been fast-tracked. The National Audit Office (NAO) said there had been a lack of transparency and a failure to explain why certain suppliers were chosen, or how any conflict of interest was dealt with, in procurement deals between March and the end of July worth 18 billion pounds ($24 billion).

Reuters | Updated: 18-11-2020 19:21 IST | Created: 18-11-2020 19:21 IST
British PM defends COVID-19 procurement after "chumocracy" accusations

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his government's handling of the procurement of protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, after a spending watchdog said suppliers with political links had been fast-tracked.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said there had been a lack of transparency and a failure to explain why certain suppliers were chosen, or how any conflict of interest was dealt with, in procurement deals between March and the end of July worth 18 billion pounds ($24 billion). Details about some of the 10.5 billion pounds worth of contracts awarded without any competition were missing, and other agreements were drawn up only after companies had started on the work, the NAO said.

The watchdog's head, Gareth Davies, acknowledged there were exceptional circumstances but said openness was essential if the government was to maintain public trust. "The evidence set out in our report shows that these standards of transparency and documentation were not consistently met in the first phase of the pandemic," he said.

The government said it had needed to respond urgently to the coronavirus crisis. "We shifted heaven and earth to get 32 billion items of PPE (personal protective equipment) into this country," Johnson told parliament. "I'm very proud of what has been achieved."

The NAO said that by July 31, the government had awarded 8,600 contracts in response to the pandemic, with the vast majority for PPE. A "high-priority lane" was set up to assess potential PPE leads from government officials, politicians and senior health staff, it said.

While one in 10 suppliers from the high-priority lane got contracts, just one in 100 from the ordinary lane did, it said. The NAO examined 20 contracts. It found departments failed to document some decisions, such as why a supplier was chosen or whether risks such as potential conflicts of interest were considered.

It highlighted a 550,000-pound contract awarded to Public First, a company that delivers focus group and communication services, that had links to senior minister Michael Gove. But it said there was no evidence Gove had been involved in the awarding of the contract. In recent weeks, newspapers have accused the government of running a "chumocracy" with contracts, including for the purchase of what turned out to be unusable PPE, and appointments made to those with family or business links to those in power.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said all contracts should be published and subjected to "full transparency and accountability". The NAO said the Cabinet Office had asked for an internal review of six PPE contracts that had attracted media attention and found "there were some gaps in the documentation, such as why some suppliers which had low due diligence ratings were awarded contracts".

It added: "We found that the ministers had properly declared their interests, and we found no evidence of their involvement in procurement decisions or contract management." (Editing by Stephen Addison and Timothy Heritage)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

China: A savior for emerging markets or a poison pill?

... ...

Future of Urban Planning: Artificial Intelligence guiding the way

Advances in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can help us understand our cities better and derive useful insights from real-time data collected through automated models....

Videos

Latest News

PM Modi pays tribute on eve of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Jayanti

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has paid tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on the eve of his Jayanti tomorrow.In a series of tweets, Shri Modi said Tomorrow, India will mark ParakramDivas, the Jayanti of the great Netaji Subhas Ch...

UP: Kidnapped medical student rescued, Delhi doctor among 5 held

A 21-year-old medical student who was kidnapped from Uttar Pradeshs Gonda district on January 18 for Rs 70 lakh ransom has been rescued and five people, including a doctor who works in Delhi and allegedly plotted the conspiracy, have been a...

PREVIEW-NFL-Bills bring swagger into clash with defending champion Chiefs

The long-suffering Buffalo Bills can move to within one win of a maiden Super Bowl title on Sunday when they face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, who could be without their biggest offensive weapon in quarterback Patrick Mahomes....

Denmark suspends Dubai flights amid doubts over virus tests

Denmark has temporarily suspended all flights from the United Arab Emirates for five days after suspicion arose that the coronavirus tests that can be obtained before leaving Dubai are not reliable, authorities announced Friday.The developm...

Give Feedback