At the beginning of October, a person called Christopher Humphris set out a very short, clear and uncomplicated petition. Within 2 weeks (the 16th October) his petition had gained 10,000 signatures which is a very significant number that requires a response from the Government. That level was achieved the day after another petition was written and made public by Marcus Rashford under the title of “End child food poverty – no child should be going hungry.” That petition hit 10,000 and indeed 171,000 signatures on its first day and it now has just under 1.1m signatures. It is still waiting for Government to respond to it, just as is the one by Christopher Humphris. Now to be clear the Rashford petition has not had a formal debate by Parliament but a week after its publication there was a debate and a vote on a similar theme by which stage it had reached 300,000 signatures. It was only after the Government had rejected the Rashford issue that the petition began to grow significantly and it passed the 1m position a week after the debate and the vote. In the meantime the Christopher Humphris petition that is here has been growing slowly but consistently and so we are now a month later and his petition has almost reached 80,000 signatures and it is continuing to grow. Its title is
“Hold a public inquiry into Government contracts granted during Covid-19”.
And the rest of the text is another 45 words which are
“There should be a public inquiry into Government contracts granted during Covid-19. Many contracts have been granted without full and open procurement processes. A public inquiry would be able to ascertain whether contracts had been procured fairly and represent value for money for tax payers.”
Given how much criticism there has already been of some very quick decisions with very large sums of publicly provided money such a review is vital. In acute timescales there are ways of avoiding such conflict and corruption by bringing together in an open manner relatively small teams of procurement specialists from a wide range of settings. These teams can ensure that the nations decisions are not handled by people who have anything to gain by the outcomes. Sadly it appears that the opposite has happened. Many of the contracts appear to have been decided behind closed doors and with no clear explanation. As a result there has been a range of examples of new, inexperienced companies with personal and financial links to people who are part of the current Government obtaining contracts. Equally there have been many examples of experienced and competent companies willing to provide similar products or services who appear to have been ignored or treated with very little interest by the Government.
Once an inquiry is carried out, if the decisions appear to have been correct, then the people involved will be free to carry on with their businesses. There are bound to have been mistakes but as long as these are not significant and as long as corrections have been made then we can all understand what has happened. On the other hand if there has been major failings that have been repeated several times and if the Government or at least its members have been carrying out issues in a corrupt manner then they need to be be held to account for what they have done badly.
As with both of these petitions, the more signatures the better, and the quicker a response from the Government the better for their credibility unless they are trying to hide something very damaging for them!