Supreme emergencies and public accountability: the case of procurement in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Purpose: The aim of this paper is to examine the changed nature of public accountability during a supreme emergency and explore how legal and auditing mechanisms have come to the fore, concluding that misappropriation of public monies is not an inevitable outcome.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper explores an illustrative example, the UK government's procurement of personal protective equipment during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Findings: In circumstances of a supreme emergency where parliamentary scrutiny and competitive contract tendering are suspended, other forms of public accountability come to the fore, with civil society actors becoming more evident.

Research limitations/implications: The paper relies on illustrative examples based on the Westminster model of government. The study advanced the notion of deferred accountability and identifies areas for further study, potentially in different jurisdictions.

Social implications: The paper highlights the need for a variety of active and engaged civil society actors.

Originality/value: The paper contributes an empirical case to how an account of government behaviour is established. The paper also contributes to a deeper understanding of the nature and role of legal and government audit accountability mechanisms.


Original languageEnglish
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Early online date8 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2021


  • Public Accountability, Government Procurement, Civil Society, Contracts, COVID - 19, Government procurement, Covid-19, Public accountability, Civil society