Category Archives: Contracts

Crony contract to Tory friends was ‘unlawful’ – but government is lying about the decision

Backhander: the Tory government is still claiming there was nothing wrong with the Public First contract but the High Court’s ruling is final – it was not legal.

The High Court has ruled that a Tory government decision to award a £560,000 contract to friends of a Tory minister and advisor gave rise to “apparent bias” and was unlawful.

The Tories are already trying to spin this by saying there was no suggestion of “actual” bias, and the contract was not awarded due to personal or professional connections between Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings and their friends in Public First, Rachel Wolf and James Frayne. She co-wrote the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto and he worked on the campaign to leave the European Union with Cummings.

I don’t know what the Cabinet Office is trying to achieve by saying that. The judge’s ruling is crystal clear: the government broke the law:

Delivering her ruling, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”

Nothing else matters. Public First and the Cabinet Office can say what they like but the decision to award the contract to Tory cronies was not permitted within the law and that is the end of the matter.

This Site has been reporting on it since July last year, when the contract first became public knowledge.

I wrote at the time: “It’s jobs for the boys, the Old School Tie, and every other example of favouritism you can imagine in the Tory government during the Covid crisis!

“They’re using emergency regulations, that allow services to be commissioned quickly, to pass huge amounts of money to their friends.

“And apparently there’s a conflict of interest as it seems to involve Eurosceptics working on focus group research related to Brexit – parts of the work contracted involved research on public attitudes to Brexit, which is dodgy in a Eurosceptic firm – although a Cabinet Office spokesman said this was a bookkeeping issue. Do you believe that?

“The Tories are using the Covid-19 crisis to funnel public money away from vital services and into their friends’ bank accounts.”

And I quoted The Guardian‘s report which is interesting in that it states the contract was worth £840,000. It’s curious that these amounts always fall when people are in trouble over them – and always rise when public money is being used to pay.

One piece of information that should have been a dead giveaway was the fact that Public First’s registered office is a residential address – a house – in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Public First was also behind the disastrous plan to bias (there’s that word again) ‘A’ level results against students who didn’t go to Public Schools like Eton.

The collaboration led to the result we all know:

The algorithm used by Ofqual downgraded 40% of the A-level grades assessed by teachers under the process set after the exams were cancelled, leading to a storm of protest from students, parents, school leaders and teachers, that culminated in a complete government U-turn on Monday and the system being scrapped.

Details of this contract were not made public and Ofqual declined to say how much public money had been spent hiring the firm of Tory cronies. It was only later that the organisation had to admit handing over £49,000 of your money to buy poorer results for your children.

Ofqual’s boss at the time, Sally Collier, later resigned – apparently in shame at having given Public First the contract, and at what that firm did with it.

So now here’s the big question: if the contract to Public First was not legal, shouldn’t that money be paid back?

And if so – by whom?

Say what you like about Public First; the work was carried out. Whether it was carried out to an acceptable standard has not been recorded (and the Ofqual experience casts doubt on that) but somebody did the work that was contracted, and we may expect that it was done in good faith.

So, shouldn’t the government minister(s), who broke the law by awarding the contract wrongly, now pay back into public funds at least the £560,000 quoted in the High Court’s judgement?

Matt Hancock, maybe? Or Boris Johnson?

Source: Government acted unlawfully over firm’s £560,000 Covid contract – BBC News

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Tory corruption: how many Covid-19 contracts went to party donors?

The image above tells a shameful story.

And it’s one the Tory government seems very keen to cover up.

Frances Stanley is said to have been handed a PPE contract worth £14.4 million of public money by the Tories after her husband donated £5,000 to Matt Hancock’s office.

She had no previous professional experience of providing such equipment and subsequently failed to fulfil the contract.

She handed back the government’s £7.2 million deposit – but the episode wasted valuable time when people were dying of a deadly disease for lack of protective equipment.

We don’t seem to know whether her application was handled on the so-called “fast lane” provided to Tory donors in order to help them jump the queue for these lucrative contracts.

But we do know that she is the wife of a Tory donor who received millions of pounds to provide a service she was unqualified to do, and whose failure is likely to have cost many lives.

And it is time we knew exactly how many of these duff contracts have been handed out.

We need a list of all contracts that have been handed to people connected to Tory donors, stating clearly whether these contracts were handed out via the “fast lane” system, how much money was handed over, and whether the contract was fulfilled.

Then we’ll be able to start working out the depth of corruption to which your government sank while your relatives and friends were dying.

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Hancock breached ministerial code with his shares in firm that has NHS contract. Why is he still health secretary?

Matt Hancock: you wouldn’t trust him to pick up a prescription from the chemist, but Boris Johnson made him health secretary. No wonder hundreds of thousands of people have died of Covid-19.

Here’s a great example of Tory corruption: the independent advisor on ministerial standards has announced that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has breached the ministerial code. It’s a sacking offence, so why does he still have his job?

Answer: because standards have slipped to such a low standard under prime minister Boris Johnson that cabinet ministers can get away with anything.

This case concerns a firm called Topwood, run by Hancock’s sister and brother-in-law. It managed to get onto NHS Shared Business Services framework in 2019, just months after Hancock became Health Secretary.

Hancock was then given – it seems he didn’t pay for them – a 20 per cent share in the shredding, storage and security firm, right before it won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal including the shredding of confidential documents.

His failure to disclose that he has shares in the firm was described as a “technical breach” of the ministerial code by Lord Geidt – who has also given Boris Johnson a clean bill of health over the funding of refurbishment work on the 11 Downing Street flat.

Hancock was characterised as having been unaware that he needed to declare this conflict of interest. But ignorance of the law is no excuse – as you or I would soon find out if we were to fall foul of similar rules.

You see the problem?

Labour’s Angela Rayner does. She has pointed out that the decision not to penalise Hancock sets a precedent that cabinet ministers do not have to follow the rules.

She said:

“I have asked Lord Geidt whether he agrees that this precedent of a Cabinet minister being found by an independent investigation to have broken the ministerial code and then not resigning sends a very clear message that the rules don’t apply to Cabinet ministers, with this case therefore damaging public trust in our politics, fundamentally weakening the ministerial code system and giving carte blanche to other ministers to break the ministerial code safe in the knowledge that they will not face sanctions.”

In fact, this has already happened.

Priti Patel was found to have broken the ministerial code in a serious way – she had been bullying civil servants in the various government departments she has darkened with her presence, including the Home Office.

But prime minister Boris Johnson, who has ultimate power to decide whether a breach has taken place, let her off.

The decision prompted former independent advisor on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan, to resign.

The Cabinet Office has tried to laugh off the controversy by saying that new guidelines suggest that ministerial code breaches should be attract a range of different sanctions according to their seriousness, and this was the first case to be examined after the change.

How convenient.

All this shows is that the Johnson government has deliberately let the corruption in.

The removal of a minister after any breach of the code at all was intended to be a strong deterrent – to ensure that ministers stuck strictly to their duties, because even the slightest deviation would attract the harshest penalty.

But now deviants like Hancock are being told they can do what they like.

It is a scandal and you should not put up with it.

But you do, because there is no mechanism within the law by which you can put a stop to it.

Now, who do you think put that system in place?

Source: Letting Matt Hancock keep job after breach ‘gives ministers licence to break rules’ | Evening Standard

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Tory contracts whitewash: the government has cleared itself of favouritism. So what?

Two-fingered response: your family members died because the Tories didn’t get vital supplies for tackling Covid-19 out in time? Too bad! They were handing the money to their mates and that is all that mattered to them.

Politics has suddenly become so busy that a lot of Tory corruption might get swept under the carpet if we’re not careful – like this example of a person appointed by Boris Johnson to probe David Cameron’s lobbying finding the government innocent of favouritism in awarding Covid contracts to Tory cronies:

The report states:

The man appointed by Boris Johnson to probe David Cameron’s lobbying has cleared the government of “favouritism” in the award of £17bn in Covid contracts.

City lawyer Nigel Boardman admitted that some government practices, such as a fast-track “VIP” priority system for firms known to MPs and ministers, gave rise to the “suspicion” of bias.

What do you do if there’s a suspicion of wrong doing? You investigate it.

Did he? Doubtful.

The report said he found no evidence of favouritism. But this is a discussion of cases in which Tory cronies with absolutely no experience of providing the relevant services were offered contracts instead of long-established firms that had been doing just that for years.

It is easy to find no evidence if you’re looking the other way.

Rachel Reeves, who is now Shadow Chancellor, had predicted that the report by Boardman – another Tory crony – would be a whitewash. She responded:

“This barely scratches the surface of the conflicts of interest in government procurement, and the deep and troubling pattern of taxpayers’ money being sunk into crony contracts.

“We need a complete overhaul to tackle cronyism, and an urgent end to emergency procurement measures.”

If such measures are still being employed, then yes – they need to stop. Even Boris Johnson is signalling (for all he’s worth, which is not much if you believe the reports) that any emergency is now over.

And we need to be sure that the money-grubbing that led to 150,000 deaths while Tories handed out useless contracts to their useless friends never happens again.

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Johnson dubbed ‘Major Corruption’ as one-fifth of UK Covid contracts ‘raised red flags’

Boris Johnson: Major corruption.

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, as the saying goes, and Boris Johnson is finding that out for himself right now.

After he referred repeatedly to Keir Starmer as “Captain Hindsight”, a commenter on Twitter responded that Johnson himself must be “Major Corruption” – to rapturous applause:

Johnson is in no position to deny the claim that is implicit in his new nickname; today (April 22) new allegations landed, suggesting that 20 per cent – an entire fifth – of Covid-19-related contracts awarded to private organisations were “red-flagged” for possible corruption.

Here’s The Guardian:

Transparency International UK said a “seriously flawed” arrangement, whereby companies bidding for contracts were prioritised if they were referred into a “VIP lane” by their political connections, had “damaged trust in the integrity of the pandemic response”.

The group said it had identified 73 Covid-related contracts with multiple factors that would ordinarily be treated as red flags for possible corruption, such as the company being politically connected. Twenty-seven PPE or testing contracts worth £2.1bn were awarded to firms with connections to the Conservative party, it claimed.

The group said it had also identified £255m of contracts awarded to companies that had only been incorporated within the previous 60 days. The figure is surprising because the short lifespan of the companies suggests they cannot have had any track record of actual business.

The group said Boris Johnson’s government must urgently disclose the identities of companies awarded public money through the VIP lane, which was set up by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care in the early days of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, we have also learned that David Cameron was trying to get his grubby little hands on personal data belonging to NHS staff, while he was lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital, in which he had a financial interest.

And the Twitter commentariat has been happy to supply multiple other examples of Johnson’s alleged corruption. For example:

One last observation: while it has been great fun calling Johnson “Major Corruption”, at least one observer has suggested that we are ranking him too highly:

As alternatives go, it is appropriate on many different levels – isn’t it?

Source: Fifth of UK Covid contracts ‘raised red flags for possible corruption’ | Coronavirus | The Guardian

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Would this firm have won PPE contract if it wasn’t represented by an ex-Tory advisor?

Buddies: Boris Johnson with Samir Jassal, the “seller’s authorised representative” who is also a former Tory councillor and Parliamentary candidate, and a former advisor to 10 Downing Street.

The strands of Tory corruption are converging in this revelation.

Details have – unintentionally – come to light of a contract granted to a firm after the Tory government bypassed the competitive tendering system, showing that it happened after lobbying by a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate with strong links to 10 Downing Street.

There are several elements of note here:

Firstly, these details would not have been available if the Good Law Project had not proven in court that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had broken the law by withholding details of contracts with private firms.

The contract had been signed in July last year, but details were not published until March – after Hancock lost the court case. Even then, the names of those involved were blacked out.

Information showing that former Tory councillor, Parliamentary candidate and Downing Street advisor Samir Jassal was the supplier’s “contact” only came to light via a second document in which his name was listed, apparently after the government had failed to black it out.

Secondly, this is further evidence of members of the Conservative Party lobbying the Conservative government on behalf of private business, and (apparently) being granted exclusive access, similar to the way David Cameron lobbied the government on behalf of Greensill Capital.

Thirdly, we should be asking how this company came to bid for a £102.6 million contract to provide PPE to the NHS. Did it use the exclusive contact system that had been devised for friends and donors to the Conservative Party – the so-called “high priority lane”?

The government has refused to say whether this contract was processed as part of this system, which tends to indicate that it was (if it wasn’t, there would be no incentive to deny it).

Fourthly, the firm, Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd, had won a £28 million contract previously. How was that arranged? Was Mr Jassal involved? Did the firm use the “friends and donors” route then, as well?

Remember: both deals were awarded to the firm without any competition.

Finally: was the contract honoured? Contracts signed by the government with Tory friends and donors, especially in the early days of the crisis, had an appalling tendency to go unfulfilled because the firms had no experience in providing the equipment.

Admittedly, a firm called Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd, which I understand was formed in 1999 to provide wholesale distribution of medical material, seems likely to be able to provide the contracted gear. But in the light of other revelations, we need to see proof.

Taken as a whole, this seems to be further proof that the Tories have corruptly – if not illegally – used a national emergency as a pretext for diverting public funds to their friends, donors and party members. Doesn’t it?

Source: Revealed: £102.6 million to ex-No10 advisor – Good Law Project

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The Tories like putting messages on the sides of a bus. But is this one too close to the facts?

Sulk all you like, Boris: it was your idea to put slogans on the sides of a bus – although I doubt you’ll say this kind of imitation is any form of flattery.

Hat tip to whoever created this image and put it on Twitter.

If you’ve been isolating yourself from the news lately, it refers to this story.

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Serco profits have doubled – because the Tories PAID for its test-and-trace failure

The Tories have been pigging out on public money again: Serco is run by the brother of a former Tory MP who also happens to be the grandson of Winston Churchill.

Happy days are here again for government outsourcing firm Serco.

The company’s shareholders have enjoyed a £17 million dividend after the company doubled its profits in 2020.

What was the source of these profits? Government contracts to handle Covid-19, including huge amounts for ‘Test and Trace’.

And what did Serco provide in return for those contracts? Absolutely nothing, it seems. The National Audit Office said there was no evidence the £22bn programme had reduced rates of Covid-19 in England.

If that’s the case, then Serco failed to honour its contract, which was to deliver a system for tracking Covid-19 infections in order to isolate the people spreading the virus and stop it from progressing.

Why, then, did the government pay up?

Could it be because Serco is run by Rupert Soames, brother of former Tory MP Nicholas and grandson of legendary Tory PM Winston Churchill?

Could it be that Serco is yet another arm of the Tory ‘Chumocracy’?

If you’re in any doubt, remember this: Soames himself has pocketed a whopping £4.9 million for his contribution to the fiasco.

Source: Serco brazens out Covid calamity as the profits roll in | Serco | The Guardian

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Why was Hancock given shares in sister’s firm right before it won Welsh NHS contract?

Matt Hancock: stupid, incompetent, or corrupt?

There seems to be a lot of disillusionment with politics in the UK at the moment – evidenced by a lack of interest in political news.

At least, that’s how it seems to this commentator on political news.

It doesn’t help that there seems to be only one story in UK politics at the moment: corruption.

And why not? you may ask. Don’t politics and corruption go hand in hand?

Yes indeed – according to an old cliche.

But there seem to be no other stories right now. Even if there were, it’s likely that we’d be able to find an element of corruption in them. It has become the trademark of Boris Johnson’s government.

It’s also why people are turning away. They don’t like it; they want to get away from it.

But it won’t go away by itself. We need people who are willing to wade in, roll their sleeves up and cut out the rot.

We do have such people – and they are champing at the bit in their keenness to get to work.

But they won’t be able to do anything while the general public is still voting people like Matt Hancock into Parliament.

People like Hancock benefit from the system as it is currently constructed, so they are not going to change it.

I mention Hancock because he is the latest Tory to be associated with a government contract given to a private company.

He recently became a shareholder in a shredding, storage and security firm called Topwood – right before it won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal including the shredding of confidential documents.

Shares in that firm are now held by three people: Managing Director Thomas Gilruth has 40, his wife Emily has another 40, and the remaining 20 went to her brother – Matt Hancock – after previous shareholders Bob and Shirley Carter gave up their 10 each, earlier this year.

Do we know why they gave up these shares? And it seems Hancock was given them, rather than buying them – isn’t that unusual?

Then there’s the timing – he received these shares right before Topwood won these large contracts, and Topwood coincidentally secured its place on the NHS Shared Business Services framework in 2019, just months after Hancock became Health Secretary.

Doesn’t it seem at least… odd… to you?

Legally, it seems there is nothing wrong. As Health Secretary in the Westminster government, Hancock has absolutely no influence on the awarding of contracts by NHS Wales, and this one was handed to Topwood after a competitive tendering process was completed. His interest in the firm has been declared.

But it doesn’t seem right, does it?

It seems as though Hancock used his influence as new Health Secretary to get his sister’s firm onto the NHS Shared Business Services framework nearly two years ago, and it seems that, now that the firm has a big contract, she and her husband are rewarding him with a share of the profits.

Even if that isn’t true – and I should stress I have no firm evidence in either direction – the fact that this is the way it seems is damaging for Topwood, for Hancock, and for the Johnson Tory government at a time when corruption is hot political news.

Hancock – who has also been mentioned in connection with the Greensill scandal (he had discussions with David Cameron) – should have refused the gift of shares in order to avoid any suggestion of impropriety.

But he didn’t.

As a result, the Tory government’s former anti-corruption champion has laid himself open to suggestions that he is either stupid, incompetent… or corrupt.

I hope someone follows the paper trail to find out how Topwood got onto that NHS Shared Business Services framework. It might be the only way Hancock can clear himself.

Or it might not. Either way, we need to know.

But I can confidently predict that, whatever the outcome, it won’t stop the voters of West Suffolk from supporting him again at the next general election.

Source: Matt Hancock Holds Shares In Sister’s Firm Who Won NHS Contracts | HuffPost UK

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