Government contract transparency will reveal supplier fees

The government has agreed to trial transparency of public sector contracts, which will require publication of fees paid to government suppliers

The government has agreed to trial transparency of public sector contracts, which will require the publication of fees paid to government suppliers.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the government will trial certain practices, such as transparency of government supplier performance and sub-contracting arrangements, following recommendations by the Institute for Government.

In a statement, Maude said the guidelines proposed by the Institute for Government match government plans to help public authorities release information on public service outsourcing to taxpayers.

“We will trial a similar version of these provisions later this spring as part of our commitments under the National Action Plan, with a view to adopting them once we have consulted across Whitehall,” he said.

Maude also released a separate document of principals designed to govern the process of releasing supplier margin information to the public, both proactively and upon public request.

The principals outline there should be a “presumption in favour of disclosing information”, and that government contracts should be subject to audit.

But according to the document, some information may have grounds to be withheld, such as intellectual property, business plans and prices, as these could affect a supplier’s competitive edge.

“Transparency and accountability of public service delivery is key as it builds the public’s trust and confidence in public services, enables citizens to see how taxpayers’ money is being spent and enables the performance of public services to be independently scrutinised,” the document said.

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Maude also announced that Mike Bracken has been appointed as the government’s chief data officer, to further develop its open data standards. 

Bracken, who already heads up the Government Digital Service (GDS), tweeted: "Support leaders already in govt, set rules of the road for govt and users, develop standards. Should be fun. Onwards!"

These steps follow a report recently released by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that said an increase in outsourcing contracts has led to a drop in transparency.

The ICO stated public services outsourcing accounts for half of the government’s £187bn spend on goods and services. It also said 75% of the public feel private companies providing services to public authorities should be required to adhere to the Freedom of Information Act.

The government has also failed to meet its 2010 pledge that it would publish all contracts related to its digital reform.

But in other areas the UK government has been labelled a “world leader” in transparency and the Cabinet Office recently highlighted several local and regional councils for “leading the way” in open data and clarity.

Maude described authorities including Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Surrey as “open data champions” due to their individual initiatives designed to make data more available to citizens.

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