Government told it must reveal the names of companies who were in ‘VIP lane’ for Covid contracts

The Information Commissioner has ordered the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to disclose the names of the 47 companies within 35 calendar days.

A person's hands running a Covid test

The government has been ordered to reveal the names of companies who were put on a ‘special VIP lane’ for multimillion-pound contracts handed out during the pandemic.

The Information Commissioner has ordered the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to disclose the names of the 47 companies within 35 calendar days.

The Information Commissioner wrote in her decision: “The DHSC has not disclosed the requested information, nor advised the Commissioner that it considers it is otherwise exempt by virtue of another exemption. The DHSC has therefore failed to comply with its obligations under FOIA.”

She also warned that “failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has previously refused to disclose the names of 47 companies that were given contracts through the privileged, fast-track process.

It has been told it must hand over information to the Good Law Project – which has previously accused ministers of “sleazy pandemic procurement”.

The campaign group is arguing that it was unlawful for companies with political connections to be prioritised for deals while other firms had to wait in line.

The National Audit Office has also previously revealed that companies who were placed on a “VIP list” because of their contacts with politicians and senior officials were 10 times more likely to win contracts in the early months of the pandemic. It said that ministers had not demonstrated they spent billions of pounds on PPE in a way that was “fair and transparent”.

Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said: “Cronyism carries a double cost. It empties the public purse into the pockets of friends of the government. And it leads to bad outcomes for public health.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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