London's High Court has found Britain's government acted unlawfully when it gave a contract to a public relations firm which local media said was run by friends of Prime Minister Johnson's former chief adviser, Dominic M. Cummings.
The court on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, agreed with a complaint that the awarding of the contract "gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful".
The court, according to Reuters, said the government had shown "apparent bias" in awarding more than 560,000 pounds ($794,000) to Public First to test public opinion on the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Good Law Project, a campaign group, brought a judicial review against the government, saying the contract was awarded without any competitive tenders in the early stages of the pandemic.
Finola M. O'Farrell, a High Court judge, said the government was entitled to award the contract because the work was needed.
But she said the failure to consider any research firms "would lead a fair-minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility, or a real danger, that the decision-maker was biased".
The government argued that there was no time to run a normal competitive selection process.
Cummings said he had been more concerned with trying to save lives than ensuring all decisions taken during the first wave of the pandemic were lawful in the eyes of the court.
The National Audit Office said last year there had been a lack of transparency and a failure to explain why certain suppliers were chosen, or how any conflict of interest was dealt with, in procurement deals between March and the end of July worth about 18 billion pounds ($25.5 billion).
Opposition politicians have accused the government of running a "chumocracy" with contracts, including for the purchase of what turned out to be unusable personal protective equipment, and appointments made to those with family or business links to those in power.
Meanwhile, the embattled Mr Johnson has been dodging a Commission of Inquiry into his handling of the pandemic and awarding of COVID-19 contracts, citing the pandemic presents an inopportune time for it.
Yet, the UK saw no problem in spending large sums of money on a controversial CoI called by ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who was known to be at loggerheads with the Andrew A. Fahie-led Government of the Virgin Islands.
Mr Jaspert was recently given a government job by his buddy Mr Johnson.