Almost one quarter of public sector contracts awarded in 2018 went to sole bidders. The Financial Times reports that the number of contracts awarded without competitive tender rose to 23 per cent in 2018. In 2016, 15 per cent were awarded without competitive tender. Government departments are also extending contracts with existing suppliers due to budget cuts and the distraction of Brexit, the newspaper reports.
The case of Seaborne Freight has again focused attention on Government outsourcing. Seaborne Freight is contracted to provide ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The company has not run a ferry service before and currently has no ferries. The deal attracted further controversy as some of Seaborne’s directors previously ran businesses that were liquidated, owing money to HMRC. The contract award notice states that the “tender process took place without prior publication of a call for competition.” The Government said the process was required “due to a situation of extreme emergency.”