Why do so many public contracts end up with friends of Dominic Cummings? Like us, you might have wondered. But, although reporters pick these stories up, nothing ever happens. Well, this time it’s different.
On 3 March 2020, the Cabinet Office shook hands with Public First, a small privately held polling company. There was no formal contract, prior advertisement, or competitive tender process. It just made what procurement lawyers call a ‘direct award’. It formalised it retrospectively on 5 June 2020 and publicised it a week later. The total contract value is £840,000.
The directors and owners of Public First are Ms Rachel Wolf and Mr James Frayne. They have close connections with both the Minister for the Cabinet Office (the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP) and his long time colleague and Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister who works in the Cabinet Office (Mr Dominic Cummings).
We believe that money for your mates, on a handshake, formalised later, is unlawful.
This is why Good Law Project has instructed Rook Irwin Sweeney and leading procurement lawyers Jason Coppel QC and Patrick Halliday. You can read our formal pre action protocol letter to Mr Gove and Mr Cummings here, the proceedings here, and the fully particularised claim form here. If you’re in a position to do so, you can donate to the case here.
To ensure value for money, to protect public funds, to guard against cronyism and bungs, one must put public contracts out to tender. And there was no exception here to that rule.