Officials showed “apparent bias” in deals with a company run by Dominic Cummings’ associates, according to the judge.
The UK high court has ruled that the government acted illegally when it handed over a contract to a company run by associates of Dominic Cummings, the former prime minister’s aide.
The court said Wednesday the government had shown “apparent bias” in awarding more than £ 560,000 ($ 794,000) to Public First to test public opinion on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The public relations firm, which undertook research for the government on its public health messages around the coronavirus pandemic, is run by James Frayne and his wife Rachel Wolf.
The couple previously worked with Cummings and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove.
The Good Law Project (GLP), a campaign group, had filed a judicial review against the government, saying the contract was awarded without any competitive bidding in the early stages of the pandemic.
In her ruling, High Court Judge Finola O’Farrell concluded that the fact that the government did not consider other companies could be considered a “real danger” of bias.
“The fact that the defendant did not consider any other investigative agency, in reference to experience, expertise, availability or capacity, would lead a fair and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility or a real danger that the decision maker was skewed, ”he said.
Officials have previously denied showing any favoritism towards Public First.
Cummings has said he was more concerned with trying to save lives than making sure all decisions made during the first wave of the pandemic were lawful in the eyes of the court.
“On this basis the courts [should] rule that many 2020 decisions were “illegal” in the same way that I and the cabinet secretary repeatedly told officials to focus on the imminent threats to life / destruction, not the processes / lawyers / routes of Potemkin’s paper, “he tweeted after Wednesday’s ruling.
74 / On this basis, the courts ruled that many 2020 decisions were equally “illegal,” as I and the Cabinet Secretary repeatedly told officials that they focus on imminent threats to life / destruction. , not in Potemkin paper proceedings / lawyers / paths “.
– Dominic Cummings (@ Dominic2306) June 9, 2021
A Public First spokesman said the company was proud of the work it did and added, “The judge did not criticize Public First anywhere in the trial.”
The National Audit Office previously accused the government of having explained why certain suppliers were chosen or how any conflicts of interest were dealt with in procurement contracts between March and the end of July worth about 18,000. million pounds ($ 25 billion).
Opposition politicians have also accused the government of leading a “chumocracy” with contracts, including the purchase of what turned out to be unusable personal protective equipment, and appointments made to those who had family or business ties with those they had. the power.