Coronavirus contracts awarded by the UK Government worth more than £3.7 billion raise at least one red flag for possible corruption, according to a report.
Transparency International UK says that how the Government handled bids for supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) and other pandemic contracts appeared to favour those with political access.
The independent anti-corruption organisation identified 73 contracts worth more than £3.7 billion – equivalent to 20 per cent of all contracts between February and November of last year – whose award “merits further investigation”.
It found that of the cases of concern, 24 contracts for PPE worth £1.6 billion were awarded to those with known political connections to the Conservative Party.
A review of these “high-risk contracts” identified 15 areas of concern, such as uncompetitive tendering and politically connected contractors.
The organisation’s report, which reviewed nearly 1,000 contracts worth £18 billion, said the system designed to triage offers of PPE supplies appeared to be “partisan and riven with systemic bias”.
It said questions remained about the “VIP” lane, used to fast track offers of PPE from companies referred by MPs peers and senior officials, such as who knew about the route and when.
Transparency International UK found that between February and November, some 98.9 per cent of Covid-related contracts by value (£17.8 billion) were awarded without any form of competition.