Covid, cash and contracts

The covid pandemic cost an estimated £370 billion in government spending from March 2020 to September 2021 said the UK National Audit Office, the UK’s independent public spending watchdog.

Many of those hundreds of billions went to support health and social care, public services, business and individuals – but some went into unknown and questionable pockets.
And since the beginning, journalists and public interest groups have struggled against government resistance to identify and expose those pockets.

In late October 2021 there were signs that struggle might shine more light on questionable dealings:
– the government was ordered on October 18 to reveal the names of 47 companies that got contracts through the VIP fast lane – a privileged, fast-track process that gave firms with political connections a 10 times greater success rate in getting such contracts.
– the Cabinet Office was forced for the first time to reveal the names of ministers who referred covid testing firms for the VIP fast lane. It admitted senior minister Michael Gove and Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew referred six firms for lucrative Test and Trace contracts.
– the UK High Court ruled on October 25 to allow further court examination of government transparency, particularly over use of private emails and messaging apps by government ministers for government business.

The decisions flow from Freedom of Information requests by the Good Law project which first revealed the VIP fast lane in October 2020 and has taken the government to court over covid measures a number of times over the past year.

In Spring 2021 a series of revelations exposed questionable dealings by the prime minister and other senior Conservatives – including a blistering public attack by his former chief aide and advisor Dominic Cummings, investigative reports in the FT and Sunday Times newspapers about lobbying by former Prime Minister David Cameron, and a scathing report from the UK Parliament’s public accounts committee which showed no evidence that £37 billion of government spending on the privatized test-and-trace program has helped to reduce infection levels.

NAO cost of covid
VIP fast lane companies
Information Commissioner ruling on VIP companies
Cabinet Office names ministers
UK High Court rules on transparency case
Good Law Project
VIP fast lane
Dominic Cummings on Boris Johnson
David Cameron and Greensill Capital – FT
David Cameron and Greensill Capital – Sunday Times
Public accounts committee report on Test and Trace