Government illegally used ‘VIP lanes’ to award PPE contracts worth millions of pounds

Tea

The use of so-called “VIP lanes” by the government to award contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) worth millions of pounds was illegal, the High Court has ruled.

Good Law Project and EveryDoctor took legal action over a nearly £600 million contract awarded to pest control firm Pestfix and hedge fund Ayanda Capital at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

After the High Court was told that a VIP lane was reserved for the referral of MPs’ ministers and senior officials, campaigners argued the government “preferred suppliers including Pastefix and Ayanda because of who they knew, not what they delivered.” could do”.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said the use of VIP lanes, officially known as high priority lanes, was illegal.

However, it found both companies’ proposals to be “reasonable priority treatment on its merits” and were “very likely” to be awarded the contract even without VIP lanes.

“Even though Pestfix and Ayanda were not allocated for the high priority lanes, they were treated as priority proposals due to the substantial amount of PPE that they were urgently needed,” the judge said.

The department was doing its best possible within the rules to respond to an unprecedented situation, and importantly, the court has rightly found that the action was appropriate and absolutely no correction or further action is necessary.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told the court that it had “completely” dismissed the case against it and that VIP Lane was rational and resulted in “a large number of credible offers” in an environment where Where PPE deals often fail within “minutes”.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell later said that DHSC’s evidence “establishes that presence on a higher priority lane does not confer any advantage at the decision-making stage of the process”.

She continued: “However, what is clear is that proposals submitted through senior referrers were considered first at the start of the process.

“The High Priority Lane team was better revived and was able to respond to such proposals on the same day, in contrast to the Opportunity team, where the sheer volume of proposals prevented such rapid consideration.”

She later said: “The timely consideration of an offer was a material advantage in obtaining the award of a contract given the urgency of the purchase.”

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