Dominic Cummings allegedly tried to bypass rules and fast-track £530,000 grant

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Dominic Cummings - Alberto Pezzali /AP
Dominic Cummings - Alberto Pezzali /AP

Dominic Cummings allegedly tried to fast-track a £530,000 government grant at the start of the pandemic, bypassing normal rules, leaked emails suggest.

Boris Johnson's former chief adviser told civil servants to "immediately" issue the cash with "no procurement, no lawyers, no meetings, no delay", the BBC reported on Tuesday night.

Other emails showed how civil servants had concerns about the timeframe and whether it was in line with the rules.

However, the grant was eventually issued to Our World in Data, a research project run by a charitable organisation with academics at the University of Oxford, in four instalments from summer 2020.

Mr Cummings, who left his role in Number 10 in Nov 2020, was contacted for comment by the BBC.

A series of emails detailed discussions of the grant for Our World in Data, which said it needed the money to hire staff who were generating data on the pandemic, bring in extra contractors and cover the cost of servers.

The request was sent to Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, who approved the grant and passed it to Matthew Gould, the chief executive of NHSX – the unit tasked with the NHS's digital transformation.

Two hours later, Mr Cummings emailed Mr Gould, saying: "Someone please ensure that they have the 530k within 24 hours from now and report back to me it's been sent.

"No procurement, no lawyers, no meetings, no delay please – just send immediately."

Mr Gould said his team could meet the request "and have the money in place by tomorrow", but it would mean "waiving the normal grant-giving process", according to the emails.

He added: "I don't want to do anything untoward, but given the Secretary of State's and Dom Cummings's strong steer I'd really welcome your help/advice/green light."

Max Roser, the founder of the project, told the BBC that a full grant application was submitted on March 25 2020 and this was followed by an agreement dated April 30 2020. "I have no way to know the internal processes inside the Government," he said.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: "Officials carried out due diligence and followed appropriate processes before this grant was awarded.

"Every contract agreed by the Government with partners has proper due diligence carried out on it."

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