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DOMINIC CUMMINGS played a central role in the awarding of a contract without tender to a company run by his mates, court documents reveal.
But in his witness statement submitted to the High Court today as part of a judicial review of the award, the former aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied that he had asked for the Public First agency to receive a contract because bosses there were his pals, claiming he would “never do such a thing.”
The Good Law Project brought the legal challenge, alleging that the deal had been awarded “on a handshake” and formalised later by a retrospective contract in July.
Public First — run by James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, who are former colleagues of Mr Cummings and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove — was paid more than £500,000 to research the public’s understanding of Covid-19 and government messaging related to the virus as part of a contract awarded in March last year.
In his witness statement Mr Cummings described himself as the “driving decision-maker” behind the move to conduct more focus groups and hire Public First.
He said that he knew from experience that Public First were “very good” at running focus groups and that “they would give us honest information, unlike many companies in this sector.” This was why he had asked for the agency to be brought in, Mr Cummings said, and not because they were his friends.
He also sought to justify the amount paid to the small agency by claiming that the sum was “trivial” if it helped to “save lives and minimise economic destruction.”
In his opening statement, Jason Coppel QC, representing the Good Law Project, said: “Public First was awarded this contract because Dominic Cummings wanted Public First to have this contract … no thought was given to seeking offers from any other provider.”
Internal emails from senior civil servant Catherine Hunt shown to the court referred to the agency as “mates” of Mr Cummings and fellow spad Liam Cain, “hence getting all our work with no contract.”
However, Ms Hunt’s witness statement claimed that this was merely a joke with colleagues and that it was not true that the contract had been awarded because of the agency’s links to Mr Cummings or Mr Cain.
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