Cameron vows to publish government contracts

Conservative leader David Cameron has announced plans to publish government contracts, including performance indicators, break clauses and penalty measures

Conservative leader David Cameron has announced plans to publish government contracts, including performance indicators, break clauses and penalty measures.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said the commitment to publish government contracts worth more than £25,000 was the "most radical transparency announcement ever made by a British political party - and will enable the public to hold ministers and civil servants to account like never before".

"This policy will help us to cut government spending, root out waste and empower the public - and bring in a new age of transparency and accountability," Osborne added.

Computer Weekly has already published details of Conservative plans to publish ICT contracts and Gateway reviews of IT-related projects and programmes.

Some of the plans have been included in the draft Conservative manifesto, which was published yesterday.

The "full publication" policy would come in from 1 January 2011. Every "commercially significant" clause would be published online and all supporting documentation would be made public.

Initially contracts involving the Ministry of Defence and the security services would not be covered by the policy, but the Tories say they want to find a way of publishing contracts relating to "non-sensitive" procurement by these bodies.

Other departments would have to publish their contracts unless they could persuade the Treasury that publication would be a threat to national security.

Cameron believes his initiative will stop the government negotiating contracts that represent poor value for money and make it easier for rival suppliers to compete.

The party's draft manifesto says "no ICT project will be commissioned without first seeing if it can be done for free or at very low cost". It says it will "call a moratorium on the creation of new ICT projects" and establish a presumption that ICT contracts should not exceed £100m.

"We will open up government data and publish datasets in full and online, in an open and standardised format, so anyone can use them to create socially useful applications."

It adds, "We will set open standards to encourage interoperability between ICT systems and open up ICT procurement to more companies by creating a level playing field for open source software throughout government... Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

It is not yet clear which of the Tory pledges are firm commitments or only promises.

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