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In September, it was revealed PR firm Hanbury Strategy, co-founded by Paul Stephenson, had been given two government tenders without competition. Stephenson worked alongside Cummings as director of communications for the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, and was reportedly one of the first individuals appointed by Cummings. Hanbury’s other founder, Ameet Gill, was former Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of strategy in Downing Street. Under the terms of the deal, Hanbury reaped in excess of £580,000 over seven months for researching “public attitudes and behaviours” related to the pandemic.
The contracts’ existence wasn’t publicised by the Cabinet Office, only being revealed due to freedom of information requests – despite official guidelines stating it should have been disclosed within 30 days of signing.
Ironically, in March 2019 Cummings slammed the UK government procurement system, for being “complex, slow and wasteful,” “hugely favouring large established companies with powerful political connections – true corporate looters.”
“The likes of Carillion and lawyers love it because they gain from the complexity, delays, and waste. It is horrific for SMEs to navigate and few can afford even to try to participate…Because of mangled incentives and reinforcing culture, the senior civil service does not care about this and does not try to improve. Total failure is totally irrelevant to the senior civil service and is absolutely no reason to change behaviour even if it means thousands of people killed and many billions wasted…The closed and dysfunctional Whitehall system fights to stay closed and dysfunctional,” he raged on his blog.
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