During the Covid pandemic there have been a lot of questions asked about the UK Government’s procurement process. There have been claims that companies who were ill equipped to fulfil contracts have been awarded them. Allegations of cronyism and preferential treatment for friends and even family have been circulating for some time. Many of the contracts are for eye watering sums of money and it only right and proper that there is full scrutiny of public spending.
A combination of a declaration of interests, the ministerial code and ministerial advisers should guarantee that good ethics and probity are maintained. But as you may suspect we have a problem. Interests that should have been published five months ago, have not. The ministerial code is only a set of recommendations, ultimately, it’s up to the Prime Minister to decide if the code has been broken. And while the Prime Minister is one of those whose behaviour is being questioned, he turns to the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests for advice on matters of propriety and ethics. Which is awkward as Lord Geidt, Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, is appointed by and answers only to the Prime Minister. The phrase marking one’s own homework springs to mind.
The situation is simply not good enough and while UK Government ministers maintain that nothing inappropriate has happened it is important for public confidence that the machinery of Government is open and transparent. While the general public have made sacrifices and people’s jobs have been on the line it would be unconscionable for any elected member to financially benefit from the crisis whether directly or indirectly and its important that we are all open to unbiased scrutiny.