Government "Covid" contracts ~ a finding of Apparent bias

The High Court has granted a declaration that the government's decision of 5 June 2020 to award a contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was therefore unlawful. The contract in question was for the provision of focus group and communications support services and was issued without public notice or competition. The government sought to rely on Regulation 32(2)(c) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

The Good Law Project put forward three grounds of challenge but was successful only on Ground 3 (Apparent Bias). It was claimed that "the fair minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias, having regard to the personal connections between the decision-makers and the directors of Public First."

The High Court's judgment (Mrs Justice O'Farrell - pictured) is at R (Good Law Project) v Minister for the Cabinet Office and Public First Ltd [2021] EWHC 1569 (TCC).

"Consequential matters" (including any applications for permission to appeal) have been adjourned to a further hearing.

Comment by Good Law Project

about the judgment has been published - We proved in the high court that Michael Gove broke the law. So what happens now? | Jolyon Maugham | The Guardian 10 June 2021

BBC News 10 June 2021 - Government acted unlawfully over firm's £560,000 Covid contract


Due to the Brexit implementation (transition) period ending on 31 December 2020, there have been changes to the legal regime for government procurement. These do not alter the requirement set by the common law to avoid either actual or apparent bias in making government decisions.