UK Committee Recommends FOI Coverage of Contracting

17 March 2014

The Public Accounts Committee of the UK Parliament on March 14 issued a report documenting the growth of contracting out public services to private contractors and calling for such activities to be covered by the freedom of information law.

Half of all public spending on goods and services goes to private providers of contracted-out services, according to the report, which makes a number of other recommendations.

“We believe Government needs to urgently get its house in order so that this expenditure is properly open to public scrutiny, and that measures are put in place which will improve services and secure a better deal for the taxpayer.” According to the report, “There is a lack of transparency and openness around Government’s contracts with private providers, with ‘commercial confidentiality’ frequently invoked as an excuse to withhold information.”   The report calls for “three basic transparency measures”:

  • the extension of Freedom of Information to public contracts with private providers;
  • access rights for the National Audit Office; and
  • a requirement for contractors to open their books up to scrutiny by officials

In response to the PAC report, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, said, “We are turning the supertanker around but a lot of this is about change of attitude and culture and mindset, and that does take time.” Maude said the government was aiming to eventually publish the details of all outsourcing contracts, according to an article in Computer World.

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