As you will be aware, the Good Law Project has sought to launch several judicial review proceedings into various aspects of PPE contracts awarded by government during the pandemic.
Last year, governments around the world faced unprecedented demand for essential goods, services and work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All public authorities in the UK, including the UK Government and devolved administrations, had to respond rapidly in that time of national crisis. The overwhelming priority was to ensure that adequate PPE supplies were provided to the NHS frontline, to keep our doctors, nurses and other hospital staff safe as they dealt with the first surge of the coronavirus. It is important to remember that the equipment was procured in that incredibly challenging environment.
Being able to procure at speed has been critical in the Government’s response to Covid-19. At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, it was made clear to all public authorities that they may need to procure new services with extreme urgency. For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a change to the public procurement regulations; there are well-established procedures in the Public Contracts Regulations for handling extremely urgent procurements and they have been used by a variety of public authorities including the UK Government and devolved administrations. Other countries followed similar urgent procurement processes.
It was also made clear throughout that value for money must be achieved for taxpayers; that good commercial judgement must be used and; the details of any awards made should be published in line with Government transparency guidelines. All contracts were negotiated and vetted by civil servants, and I pay tribute to all officials who worked incredibly hard to ensure that those contracts were finalised and that the PPE reached hospital staff in a timely manner.
In the context of public contracts, you may be interested to learn that the Government published the Green Paper on Public Procurement Rules Reform at the end of last year, which is a consultation on radical reform of the UK’s public procurement regulations. The proposals will make public procurement even more transparent by making more open data available on public contracts. If you would like to read more about the proposals, the consultation can be found at the following link www.gov.uk/government/consultations/green-paper-transforming-public-pro…