Government grant database ‘not detailed enough’

30 Oct 17

The Cabinet Office has released £100bn of grant data for the first time – but the information still lacks necessary detail, the head of data and transparency at the Institute for Government has told Public Finance.

Government departments can now publish data on grants it makes to a range of organisations, including charities, schools and transport operators on the register

The register, published on 26 October, relates to the last financial year.

But Gavin Freeguard, head of data and transparency at the IfG, said that, while the register was a “welcome step forward”, in order to be “truly useable and useful, government needs to include all the relevant data, such as company and charity numbers of all grant recipients”.

IfG research manager Nick Davies analysed the data and found less than 800 out of 3,351 grants on the register included a charity or company number.

He tweeted:

Figures from the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Justice were more granular, the Cabinet Office told PF. The source also said not all grant recipients were registered charities or companies. 

Freeguard added:  “We hope that other departments will follow the Department for Transport and Ministry of Justice in publishing to a higher standard.”

Although he also said the release was a “great example of how open data can make government more effective and more accountable”.

The government decided to set up the Government Grants Information System after the collapse of the charity Kids Company and a critical National Audit Office report.

The watchdog highlighted that the government gave the Kids Company £1.3m despite warning signs it was “failing” and “chaotic”.

Fran Perrin, Founder of 360Giving, which supports organisations to publish their grants data, said: “The government is the UK's largest grant funder, so we are pleased that it is on board with the greater grants data movement in a push towards more transparency, efficiency and efficacy.”

John Manzoni, chief executive of the civil service and permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, said:  “We spend more than £100bn a year on government grants.

“We will continue to ensure that this money is being spent effectively.

“Through the GGIS, for the first time, we are able to collect more extensive data across government departments, not only on the levels of grant giving, but also how the process is being managed within each department.”

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