The Public Procurement Review Service received 123 complaints from businesses over the tendering of contracts in the year to 30 September 2020, the Cabinet Office has revealed in response to a freedom of information request.
Commercial law firm EMW, which submitted the request, said disputes over how PPE contracts were awarded was likely to drive a number of complaints to the Government in the coming year.
According to a recent report by the National Audit Office, £10.5bn in COVID-related contracts were awarded without any competition.
“Businesses who may have been more capable of fulfilling these contracts might choose to file official complaints in an attempt to help them win future procurement deals,” EMW said.
James Geary, Principal at EMW, said: “COVID PPE contracts have brought all the old problems with Government procurement back to the fore again, following a real effort to improve things prior to the pandemic.”
“Winning a major public contract can be transformative for a business, so some will be considering legal action over contracts they feel they were unfairly denied a chance to bid for. The NAO report lays bare what appears to be some ineffective procurement practices during the pandemic, which may embolden more businesses to take complaints forward.”
Geary added: “Complaints surrounding Government procurement are still common and will likely remain so if transparency around the awarding of contracts does not see far-reaching improvement.”