Closed petition Hold a public inquiry into Government contracts granted during Covid-19

There should be a public inquiry into Government contracts granted during Covid-19. Many contracts have been granted without full and open procurement processes. A public inquiry would be able to ascertain whether contracts had been procured fairly and represent value for money for tax payers.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

126,873 signatures

Show on a map

100,000

Parliament will consider this for a debate

Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate

Waiting for 188 days for a debate date

Government responded

This response was given on 5 January 2021

The National Audit Office, the public spending watchdog reported on Government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government has published a statement on GOV.UK.

Read the response in full

The National Audit Office has published its report relating to government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic covering the period up to 31 July 2020. This includes, among other things, an examination of procurement activity during the pandemic and the Government’s management of procurement risks. The report will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee in the usual way. The Government published a statement available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/statement-on-government-procurement-following-this-weeks-nao-report.

More generally, the Government has always been clear that there will be opportunities to look back, analyse and reflect on all aspects of COVID-19. This will include an independent inquiry at the appropriate time. For now the Government is focused entirely on responding to the pandemic and saving lives, particularly as the country is experiencing a second wave of the virus. That being the case, it would be premature at this stage to attempt to define the inquiry's eventual terms of reference.

Governments around the world faced unprecedented demand for essential goods, services and works due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All public authorities in the UK, including the UK Government and devolved administrations, had to move quickly.

Working with the private sector has been a vital part of the Government’s response to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, with private sector workers standing alongside those from the public sector on the front line. Indeed, the private sector has assisted us to deliver over 15,000 ventilators in under four months to support the NHS; procure almost 32 billion items of PPE for frontline workers; and we now have the capacity to process over 530,000 tests a day.

Being able to procure at speed has been critical in the Government’s response to COVID-19 and at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, we made it clear to all public authorities that they may need to procure new services with extreme urgency. This is not a change to the public procurement regulations; there are already well-established procedures in the Public Contracts Regulations for handling extremely urgent procurements and they have been used by a variety of public authorities including the UK Government, and devolved administrations. Other countries, including Japan, Finland and New Zealand, followed similar urgent procurement processes.

We also made it clear that authorities must continue to achieve value for money for taxpayers, use good commercial judgement and publish the details of any awards made, in line with Government transparency guidelines.

The Government is committed to adopting and encouraging greater transparency in its commercial activity. There are existing rigorous central controls in place to challenge spend robustly and to ensure that the actions of Government contracting authorities are open, fair and transparent.

The department has also conducted some internal audit work to examine procurements during COVID. We do not as a matter of course publish internal audit reports. An independent expert review, the Boardman Review, has been undertaken in relation to certain communications services contracts and the report and recommendations have been published on gov.uk. Government also published the Green Paper on Public Procurement Rules Reform 15 December, a Green Paper consultation on radical reform of the UK’s public procurement regulations. The Green Paper proposals will make public procurement even more transparent by making more open data available on public contracts.

Cabinet Office
This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328408)

Other parliamentary business

Share your experience of Government procurement processes with MPs

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee are conducting an inquiry into reports by the National Audit Office, the UK’s independent public spending watchdog. Respectively, these reports focus on:
1. the way government has handled procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic, and
2. Government procurement and contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE).

The inquiry will take evidence on both reports, examining the scale of Government’s Covid-19-related contracting, how procurement rules have changed and how the government is managing the risks associated with these changes. For a chosen sample of these contracts it will look specifically at who bought what, from whom, and at what cost, during the pandemic - and whether this is delivering value for taxpayers money in the crisis.

Share your experiences

The Committee invites submissions from individuals and businesses directly involved in the procurement process, or frontline recipients of such contracts.

To find out more about the inquiry and submit evidence, visit: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/731/.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 7 December.

Public Accounts Committee

The Public Accounts Committee is a group of non-Government MPs who examine the value for money of Government projects, programmes and service delivery. Drawing on the work of the National Audit Office, the Committee holds government officials to account for the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of public spending.

Find out more about the role of the Public Accounts Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/127/public-accounts-committee/
Find out more about select committees: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/committees/select/

MPs to debate NAO report on government procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic

MPs will debate an NAO report into government procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday 9 December in Westminster Hall.

This will be a general debate. General debates allow MPs to debate important issues, however they do not end in a vote nor can they change the law.

The debate will start at 9.30am and last up to 90 minutes.

Watch the debate here: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/d61b22f2-58f2-46f5-9ce3-cef3692e05a3

Find out more about how Parliamentary debates work: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/debates/

Original Government response

The National Audit Office, the public spending watchdog, is currently looking into Government procurement activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with the private sector has been a vital part of the Government’s response to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, with private sector workers standing alongside those from the public sector on the front line. Indeed, the private sector has assisted us to deliver over 15,000 ventilators in under four months to support the NHS; procure 32 billion items of PPE for healthcare workers; and increase testing capacity to 519,770 by the end of October.

Being able to procure at speed has been critical in providing that response and at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, we made it clear to all public authorities that they may need to procure new services with extreme urgency. This is not a change to the public procurement regulations; there are already well-established procedures in the Public Contracts Regulations for handling extremely urgent procurements and they have been used by a variety of public authorities including the UK Government.

We also made it clear that authorities must continue to achieve value for money for taxpayers, use good commercial judgement and publish the details of any awards made, in line with Government transparency guidelines. All contracts over £10,000 are published on Contracts Finder on GOV.UK

The Government is committed to adopting and encouraging greater transparency in its commercial activity. There are existing rigorous central controls in place to challenge spend robustly and to ensure that the actions of Government contracting authorities are open, fair and transparent.

The National Audit Office has commenced an independent investigation to set out the facts relating to government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic covering the period up to 31 July 2020. This will include, among other things, an assessment of procurement activity during the pandemic and the Government’s management of procurement risks. The report will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee in the usual way.

Cabinet Office
This response was given on 11 November 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

MPs question the Government on the publication of Covid-19 contracts

On Tuesday 9 March, MPs questioned Minister for Health Edward Argar on the publication of Government contracts.

The debate followed an Urgent Question from Rachel Reeves, asking the Minister to make a statement on the recent court order regarding the Government’s publication of contracts during the covid-19 pandemic.

Watch the debate: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/6bfe30f5-4b17-4ec3-8e92-60f669a3f48c?in=12:37:58
Read the transcript: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-03-09/debates/7C81F2EF-D14C-4028-89C6-6C448E5B93B9/Covid-19Government%E2%80%99SPublicationOfContracts

What is an Urgent Question?

MPs may request that the Speaker considers their application for an urgent question each day. If the Speaker is satisfied that the question is urgent and of public importance it is then granted.
A relevant Government minister has to come to the Chamber to explain what the Government is doing on the issue raised. The minister will then usually take questions on the subject from MPs.

Find out more

Find out more about the role of the Petitions Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/role/
Follow the Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions