British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, forced to go into quarantine earlier this week after exposure to the coronavirus, was able Wednesday to participate in his usual spirited debate with lawmakers during question time at parliament. Johnson was hospitalized earlier this year after testing positive.
After wishing the prime minister well, and praising him for self-isolating, main opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer questioned Johnson about a report from the National Audit Office. It was regarding lucrative government contracts worth billions going to “go between” companies to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) without the proper oversight.
The report said the government awarded 8,600 contracts worth $24 billion between March and the end of July of this year, mostly without a competitive tender process.
While the government can make purchases with limited competition in emergencies, the audit office said in its report that companies with links to politicians were fast-tracked and had greater chances of getting a coronavirus contract than other applicants.
Starmer called on Johnson to guarantee that from now on such government contracts will be subject to proper process with full transparency and accountability.
Johnson accused Starmer of wanting to score political points by attacking the government on moving too fast to secure the PPE and defended the government’s actions.
"I'm proud of what we did to secure huge quantities of PPE during the pandemic, any government would do this,” said Johnson without directly addressing Starmer’s question.
Prime Minister Johnson's Conservative government has been accused of running a “chumocracy” by awarding lucrative contracts and well-paid jobs to people with links to ministers and the governing party — claims the government denies.