The details of 100 government Covid contracts have still not been published

By Iain Leggat
Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:32 pm
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:33 pm
The details of 100 government Covid contracts have still not been published (Photo: Shutterstock)

A hundred Covid government contracts are still unpublished, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling MPs they were “on the record for everyone to see”, campaigners say.

The revelation arrives after a High Court judge found Health Secretary Matt Hancock had acted unlawfully by handing out contracts without publishing details in a timely way, after a case was brought against the Government by the Good Law Project.

The group said the Prime Minister’s assurance to MPs last month was “not true”, because government lawyers had said 100 contracts were yet to be revealed.

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Within the law, the Government has 30 days to publish a “contract award notice” for any contracts for public goods or services worth more than £120,000.

100 contracts not yet published

Speaking in the House of Commons on 22 February, Boris Johnson said: “All the details are on the record,” adding, “the contracts are there on the record for everybody to see”.

Three days later, in a written response to the Good Law Project which was seen by the BBC, government lawyers admitted that 100 contracts for suppliers and services relating to Covid-19 signed before 7 October had yet to be published.

The court had asked the Government to declare the number of contracts which had been published late.

Government lawyers also confirmed that 482 out of 513 contract award notices - 94 per cent of them - had been published outside the 30 days required by law.

Gemma Abbott, the legal director of the Good Law Project, said: “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.”

Health Secretary acted unlawfully

In the High Court in February, Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that Health Secretary Matt Hancock acted unlawfully after his department failed to publish award notices for contracts it had agreed through the Covid pandemic with 30 days of them being signed.

Mr Hancock was also found to have acted unlawfully when failing to comply with the government’s own policy of publishing the contracts within 20 days of them being awarded.