Thursday 18 August 2022

Good Law Project issues judicial review after contracting authority ‘unlawfully’ awarded £70bn public sector net zero procurement process

 Good Law Project  has filed a judicial review against contracting authority East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) after it handed over a £70 billion procurement process to a Cornwall-based ‘micro-company’ specialising in education services.


E2BN’s ‘Everything Net Zero’ is a framework agreement that offers the UK’s entire public sector, from the NHS to local government offices, a way to award contracts even loosely connected to ‘climate’ issues without having to comply with the usual rules about public procurement. Despite covering up to £70 billion, management of the framework agreement has been handed over to just one company  - a consultancy called Place Group, listed by Companies House as a ‘micro-company’ run by two directors in Penzance, Cornwall, with net assets of just under £350,000.


Jo Maugham, Director of Good Law Project, said:


The drive to achieve Net Zero is one of the most important challenges the UK faces today.  Why was E2BN, ‘a regional broadband consortium’, allowed to write such a poor example of a framework agreement and to make a decision that could have such a far-reaching impact on the UK’s climate response? Why did they decide to outsource control over billions of pounds in emissions reductions contracts to the Place Group, a tiny company whose main experience seems to be in the education sector?  Why was Place Group the only company to submit a tender? These are vital questions the public deserves to have an answer to and which E2BN has so far refused to answer.


Good Law Project is bringing this action as E2BN’s decisions and conduct in respect of the Everything Net Zero Framework appear to be in breach of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. As it currently stands, it seems that billions of pounds worth of public contracts could be awarded by the Place Group to unspecified suppliers without open, transparent and fair competition. GLP has asked the Court to hold proceedings for a month to give E2BN another chance to provide proper answers.


In July, GLP along with Joanna Wheatley, Client Earth and Friends of the Earth successfully sued the Government over its strategy for delivering on its Net Zero targets, on the basis proposals were too vague and lacked enough detail.  GLP will continue to campaign for accountability and transparency where the Government’s approach to the climate crisis is concerned, including its procurement process.  


1 comment:

Philip Grant said...

Framework Agreements and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 are a subject I have had to get involved in recently (and there is more to come on that).

These Frameworks can be misused, and are a way of avoiding transparency.

I am glad that the Good Law Project is taking this action, which as well as challenging what appears to be an "unusual" decision will hopefully shine a light on how Framework Agreements are open to abuse, so that the rules about them can be tightened.