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£4bn in UK government Covid contracts with private firms go unpublished

The Guardian reports that in what appear to be a breach of the law, the government has failed to publish any information about £4bn of Covid-related contracts awarded to private companies.

The gap was uncovered by campaign group the Good Law Project, which along with a cross-party group of MPs, is suing the health secretary, Matt Hancock, in the high court. They are accusing his ministry of an “egregious and widespread failure to comply with legal duties and established policies”.

A legal filing in the case, dated 30 October, has led to government lawyers revealing that £17bn had been spent by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Covid-related goods and services since the start of the financial year in April, but to date the DHSC has only released details of £12.4bn, leaving £4.6bn unaccounted for.

The gap narrowed last week after the department rushed out details of £1.6bn in contracts. Many of the new deals are for the purchase of rapid test kits of the kind being used in Liverpool’s city-wide testing effort.

Meanwhile, government guidance advises civil servants to publish the contracts themselves within 20 days.

Full story in The Guardian, 9 November 2020

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