The High Court has ruled that the ‘VIP lane’ for PPE contracts is illegal.
The use of a so-called “VIP lane” by the government to award PPE contracts was found to be illegal by the High Court.
The decision came as yet another setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been dogged by sleaze allegations.
Campaigners claimed that the VIP lane, which was reserved for referrals from MPs, ministers, and senior officials, had unfairly favored some businesses.
A judge ruled that giving those companies preferential treatment, which meant that their offers were considered more quickly, was illegal.
She did say, however, that the two companies involved in the case were almost certainly given contracts in the first place.
During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor filed a lawsuit over contracts worth nearly £600 million awarded to pest control company PestFix and hedge fund Ayanda Capital.
They claimed the government had “prioritized suppliers like PestFix and Ayanda because of who they knew, not what they could deliver,” and that the government had “prioritized suppliers like PestFix and Ayanda because of who they knew, not what they could deliver.”
Mrs Justice O’Farrell ruled that using the VIP lane, also known as the high priority lane, was illegal.
Both companies’ offers, she found, “justified priority treatment on its merits” and were “very likely” to be awarded contracts even if the VIP lane was not available.
“Even if PestFix and Ayanda had not been assigned to the high priority lane, they would have been treated as priority offers because of the significant volumes of PPE they could supply that were urgently needed,” the judge said.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) disputed the claim, telling the court that it “wholeheartedly” rejected the case against it, and that the VIP lane was rational and resulted in a “large number of credible offers” in an environment where PPE deals frequently failed in “minutes.”
Mrs Justice O’Farrell later stated that “presence on the high priority lane did not confer any advantage at the decision-making stage of the process” based on the evidence presented by the DHSC.
“What is clear, however, is that offers introduced through senior referrers received earlier consideration at the outset,” she continued.
“In contrast to the opportunities team, which was overwhelmed by offers, the high priority lane team was better resourced and able to respond to such offers the same day they arrived.”
“Timely consideration of an offer was a,” she later explained.
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