By The Good Law Project, 5th March 2021
3 days after the High Court ruled Government had acted unlawfully by failing to publish Covid contracts, Boris Johnson stood up in the House of Commons and reassured MPs and the public that all Covid-related contracts were “on the record”. However, the final Order handed down by the Judge today shows that what the Prime Minister told the House was not true.
The Judge confirmed:
“The Defendant has published 608 out of 708 relevant contracts for supplies and services relating to COVID-19 awarded on or before 7 October 2020. In some or all of these cases, the Defendant acted unlawfully by failing to publish the contracts within the period set out in the Crown Commercial Service’s Publication of Central Government Tenders and Contracts: Central Government Transparency Guidance Note (November 2017).”
Remarkably, the Judge’s Order is based on Government’s own figures – so at the same time as Johnson was falsely reassuring MPs, Government lawyers were preparing a statement contradicting him – revealing 100 contracts and dozens of Contract Award Notices were missing from the public record. You can read the final Court Order here and consequential judgment in full here.
Over the course of our judicial review, Government made no less than four attempts to provide an accurate witness statement setting out the number of contracts and Contract Award Notices that had been published late – and they kept getting it wrong. As late as the hearing itself, they said they had published 28% of Contract Award Notices within the 30 day legal limit.
But when asked by the Judge to follow up with evidence of the figures so he could make his final Order, it transpired that Government had actually only published 3% of CANs in the legal timeframe.
Government has not only misled Parliament and placed inaccurate information before the Court, it has misled the country.
Unless contract details are published they cannot be properly scrutinised – there’s no way of knowing where taxpayers’ money is going and why. Billions have been spent with those linked to the Conservative Party and vast sums wasted on PPE that isn’t fit for purpose.
We have a Government, and a Prime Minister, contemptuous of transparency and apparently allergic to accountability. The very least that the public deserves now is the truth.
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