The standards adviser's report concluded that Boris acted "unwisely" in handling his flat refurbishment, but that he did not violate the code.
According to Dominic Cummings, Boris's former chief adviser, the prime minister planned to cover the difference by having contributors "secretly pay" for the job. According to Cummings, this would have been "unethical, foolish, possibly illegal." It would also mean that the Prime Minister infringed the law on correct disclosure of political donations, claimed Cummings.
A politician must disclose any money received from a contributor, whether a gift or a loan, generally within 28 days. A monetary donation could be used to gain favors or political clout if it is kept hidden, reports BBC News.
Christopher Geidt, the Prime Minister's independent adviser on ministerial interests, was hired in April 2021. PM Boris urged him to look into the "facts surrounding" the flat makeover. When it came to the finance concerning the improvements, he concluded that PM Boris had not broken the ministerial code. Geidt found that PM Boris was unaware that Brownlow, the conservative party's former vice-chairman, settled an invoice.
According to Geidt's report, after Boris was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2019, there was a discussion about how Downing Street's official and private areas should represent, refurbished, and funded. PM Boris did not want to use public funds, so he agreed that the Downing Street Trust could handle these matters.
The refurbishment work had begun in April 2020, when PM Boris was in the hospital due to COVID-19. While in the hospital, he received official advice that the Trust would cover "some if not all" costs.
The Cabinet Office received and paid the first invoices for the refurbishment work already conducted on Downing Street. However, in late June 2020, the Conservative Party was "recharged" in anticipation of the yet-to-be-established Trust repaying the funds.
The standards adviser's official report states the Prime Minister was not aware of these invoices or how they were resolved. In mid-June, 2020 the government's legal advice raised doubts about the Trust's ability to cover the expenditures, and Brownlow was appointed as its chair in July.
On October 20, Brownlow acknowledged to Cabinet Office officials that he had settled an invoice for the Downing Street residence restoration works directly with the supplier the day before, including ensuring the information was correctly documented in the minutes.
"Cabinet Office officials appear not to have acted on this information to the extent of informing the Prime Minister," said the report.
The Guardian reports Brownlow "directly" sent the money to a supplier in October; no figure was given for the expenses. According to the Daily Mail, in an email, Brownlow mentioned that he was paying £58,000. The payment was "to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon-to-be-formed 'Downing Street Trust."
Despite some brief contact between the Prime Minister and Brownlow over the next three months, the record indicates no evidence that Brownlow notified the Prime Minister that he had personally settled the total expenditures. The Prime Minister confirmed to Geidt that he was ignorant of the payments until they were exposed in the media in February 2021. The Prime Minister obtained the necessary counsel regarding his interests at the time, and as a result, he paid the entire amount himself on March 8.
Geidt wrote, "The prime minister — unwisely, in my view — allowed the refurbishment of the apartment at No. 11 Downing Street to proceed without more rigorous regard for how this would be funded." reports Politico.