A day barely seems to pass by when the Government doesn’t seem to be faced with fresh legal action. The latest sees The Good Law Project bring legal action in relation to Personal Protective Equipment.
It’s not the first time that The Good Law Project has commenced legal action in relation to personal protective equipment, against the Government. They have also recently issued a claim for a Judicial Review of the Government’s decision not to conduct an inquiry into the shortage. But this time they are challenging this Government’s decision to award a £108m contract to Crisp Websites Limited (trading as Pestfix), to supply personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. This one contract accounted for a third of the £350m worth of contracts the Government has signed since the start of the pandemic.
The Good Law Project’s Claim
The Good Law Project issued a judicial review pre-action protocol letter to the Government on 10 June. On 14 June they issued short form judicial review proceedings to get answers.
The Good Law Project are alleging that:
- There was only one bidder for the contract;
- The purchase order for the contract was issued three days before the contract concluded;
And they are asking the Government to explain:
- Where the contract was advertised? And if it was not advertised, why it was awarded to Crisp Websites Limited?
- How was the £108m given to Crisp Websites Limited? They suggest this is a significant sum for a company who only declared £18,047 in net assets, at the time they were last reported.
- Why they did not publish the notice announcing the award within 30 days, as required?
- Why, two months after the contract as awarded, has the Government not published the contract? It is recommended that this is done within 20 days.
- What steps they took to meet the obligation of getting value for money?
The Good Law Project recognise that although contract can be awarded without advertising. But to do so, the criteria must be met for a “direct award”. To do this the Government will have to establish that “there is only one supplier … with capacity to complete on the scale required” and that there was unforeseen urgency. The Good Law Project say that these criteria were not met. Furthermore, they point out that the contract was for twelve months, so even if there is urgency now, how can this be foreseen into early 2021?
Why the Claim Matters?
The contract accounts for a significant amount of public money. A similar amount, The Good Law Project point out, to what will be saved from scrapping school meal vouchers. They also point out that amidst the the catalogue of failures in relation to personal protective equipment provision it is essential to know where and how procurement is going so wrong.