NEWS13 July 2020

Government awards research contract without tender

Brexit Covid-19 News Public Sector UK

UK – The government has awarded a research contract worth £840,000 without going through an open tender process, according to a joint report from the Guardian and OpenDemocracy.

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The contract, given to policy and research company Public First, is for public opinion research in to government communications.

The Cabinet Office produced the contract in June, backdating it to 3rd March, when the work was first commissioned.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Public First was awarded a contract to carry out focus groups across the UK in response to the Covid-19 crisis. 

“This work helped to ensure that vitally important public health messages the government was issuing were the right ones, and it will continue to inform future Covid-19 campaign activity.”

According to the Cabinet Office’s public expenditure record, which publishes spend over £25,000, Public First was paid £42,000 on 2nd April for work labelled as ‘EU Exit Comms’. Other payments included £78,187.07 on 27th May labelled as ‘Covid-19’.

The Cabinet Office spokesperson said Public First conducted no EU exit work and that payments were labelled using an existing cost centre code. 

Government work is required to be put out for tender unless there are exceptional circumstances. According to the Cabinet Office, the arrangement was put in place using legislation allowing work to be commissioned without tender in unforeseen circumstances – the Covid-19 pandemic.

Public First declined to comment. 

This story was first reported by the Guardian and OpenDemocracy.