Maude boosts outsourcing transparency

25 Mar 15

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has set out plans to increase the transparency of government outsourcing contracts by introducing a presumption in favour of disclosing information, including the ‘vast majority’ of commercial terms.

Setting out changes in response to an Institute for Government report that called for an increased openness, Maude said the government would look to introduce a new standardised transparency clause shortly.

In a report published yesterday, the IfG concluded that private and voluntary sector suppliers to government should be required to publish more information about their operations and performance.

This should also include a requirement that suppliers regularly release data in a set format. Following the recommendations, Maude said these standard provisions ‘align with our principles on transparency… and support our development of a transparency clause which will ensure that public authorities can make the necessary information on outsourced public services available to the taxpayer’.

He added: ‘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.’ The details of the clause, published yesterday, will require suppliers to agree a schedule to release information to the public with government. It will also require all government contracts to be subject to audit, with the National Audit Office given access to the contracts.

Financial transparency should also include a commitment by firms to help improve the government’s understanding of their costs, revenues and margins. Suppliers will need to provide the Crown Commercial Service with aggregated financial at regular, pre-agreed intervals during a contract.

The Cabinet Office guidance said this will help government become a ‘principled, experienced and responsible customer’ and it would not be looking to introduce burdensome reporting requirements. However, more effective financial transparency would allow the supplier and the contracting authority to be able to demonstrate the quality and value of the services they provide. In the IfG’s report, Sir Ian Magee, a senior fellow at the institute, highlighted that contracted services were central to public service delivery in the UK, but there was little public information on how these contractors are performing.

‘The transparency provisions agreed in this report will help make government contracts more open and accountable to the public,’ he added. ‘So while this publication represents significant progress, we are clear that this is only just the beginning.’

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