- ‘Direct award of government contract to “Public First” unlawful’ (R (Good Law Project) v Minister for the Cabinet Office (Defendant) Public First (Interested Party))
- What are the practical implications of this case?
- What was the background?
- What did the court decide?
- Case details
Public Law analysis: The court found that a decision by the Minister for the Cabinet Office to directly award a contract for research to inform the government’s communications strategy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to the interested party, Public First, was unlawful. Public First had personal and professional connections to both the Minister himself and to Dominic Cummings (then special adviser to the Prime Minister). The judge accepted that the defendant had been entitled to rely on the truncated procedure under regulation 32(2)(c) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR 2015) to make the award, and accepted that the term of six months was not disproportionate. However, the use of regulation 32(2)(c) did not relieve the defendant of the requirement to conduct the procurement so as to demonstrate a fair and impartial process of selection. In the circumstances, the failure to consider any other research agency by reference to objective criteria gave rise to an appearance of bias. Written by Siân McGibbon, barrister at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square.
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