To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, pursuant to the Answer of 23 November 2020 to Question 1116638 on Government departments: procurement, what steps he is taking to (a) identify and (b) tackle potential (i) conflicts of interest and (ii) bias in his Department's procurement process.
Regulation 24 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 requires contracting authorities to take appropriate measures to effectively prevent, identify and remedy conflicts of interest arising in the conduct of procurement procedures. The Department has robust rules and processes in place to ensure that conflicts of interest do not occur, including declaration from suppliers, publication of ministerial interests and robust departmental guidance.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical urgency of the situation and requirement to protect the National Health Service and the country led to specialist consultants and contractors being brought in at extreme pace. This meant that some work was initiated before final contract details were put in place or had been formally awarded. This situation has been addressed. Over 900 contracts have been awarded by the Department and its executive agencies in response to COVID-19. Information on the precise number of such cases has not been centrally collated by the Department.