Extreme Urgency: What Does The Public First Judgment Tell Us About Emergency Procurement?

January 2022

The COVID pandemic caused a surge in emergency public procurement as government and public bodies sought to secure goods, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment, and services as quickly as possible. Subsequently, a series of legal challenges has tested whether contracts that were awarded under these circumstances were procured lawfully.

The most recent of these cases concerned the direct award of a contract by the Cabinet Office to Public First, the founders and directors of which had links to Dominic Cummings, who was then the Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister. The case has attracted significant media interest. But what does it tell us about how to conduct emergency procurement lawfully? And will these principles be retained in the forthcoming procurement reforms?