It was to me and it’s such a corrupt story I think a lot of people would – and possibly will be – as horrified as I was to hear it.
It was revealed by an admirable journalist who is called George Monbiot and he wrote about it in The Guardian on the 15th of July. He says that he had been asking himself for the past fortnight why news of this particular scandal hasn’t been all over the front pages.
Let me begin at the beginning. This present case of blatant corruption was unearthed by ‘investigative journalist at The Guardian and Open Democracy’ and it concerns a government contract to test the effectiveness of the government’s Coronavirus messaging, it was worth £840,000 and was issued by the Cabinet Office which is run by Michael Gove. The deal seems to have been struck on the 3rd of March, but the only written record in the public domain is a letter dated the 5th of June, retrospectively offering a contract which had already been granted. There was, as George Monbiot tells us, no advertisement for the work and no competition, the deal appears to have been done with a ‘handshake and a slap on the back’.
And who did this contract go to? It went to a company called ‘Public First’ which is owned by a married couple known as James Frayne and Rachel Wolf. And guess who their friends are! Frayne has worked with Dominic Cummings on political campaigns since 2000 – well there’s a surprise! – and when Gove became Education secretary, he brought Cummings and Frayne into his department – and there’s another one! In 2010 Gove’s department awarded Wolf a contract worth half a million. That didn’t go to competitive tender either. I hope you are now all singing together ‘Jobs for the boys!’ and feeling as cross as I am at the public use of so much of OUR money.
This is about as corrupt as any government in this country has ever dared to be. It is corruption on a grand scale and it is all done in secret. But there are some people struggling to bring it to the light. George Monbiot is one – and all honour to him – another is the ‘Good Law project’, which issued proceeding in the High Court against Gove last Friday, ‘alleging breaches of procurement law and apparent bias in the granting of the contract to his long-standing associates’. It will be interesting to see what success they have.
Finally, a little tit-bit of local news on the same subject. It involves a pest control company called Pest Fix in Littlehampton, West Sussex, just along the coast from where I live. It’s a very small company, which has listed net assets of a mere £18,000 but surprise, surprise, the Government gave it a £32 million contract to supply surgical gowns which it was supposed to order from China. It was given a deposit worth 75% of the value of the contract despite the fact that the Government’s own rules state that ‘prepayments should only be made in extremely limited and exceptional circumstances and should be capped at 25% of the value of the contract’. In the two weeks before the Government gave its contract to Pest Fix, it was approached by 16,000 companies offering to supply PPE. Some had a long track record in manufacturing and/or supplying PPE and most had stocks that could be deployed immediately. Which is a very far cry from what Pest Fix appear to be doing. Even today only HALF the gowns that they were supposed to order have reached the country and they’re all siting in a warehouse in Daventry.
This is corruption on a vast and dangerous scale. I will let George Monbiot have the last words because they are so potent and so true. ‘This’ he said at the start of the article from which I’ve taken all this information – many thanks Mr Monbiot – ‘STINKS.’