Institute for Government Recommends Transparency Provisions for Public Procurement

Two of the big themes of this government in terms of public procurement have been the issues around the performance of some of the key suppliers to the public sector (think of the Serco / G4S issues around prisoner tagging, or Capita and the MOD recruitment programme), and the whole question of transparency and openness.

Today, in response to these issues, the Institute for Government (IfG), an excellent independent organisation that does a lot of thinking, writing and education around the theme of better government, has issued a new report titled “Enhancing transparency in public service contracts” – with the subtitle “Recommendations for a new default.”

“... the Institute for Government outlines how private and voluntary sector suppliers to government could be required to publish important information about their operations and performance.

The government has committed to trialling similar transparency provisions based on these recommendations, which includes publishing the fees paid to government suppliers, their performance, and details of major subcontracting arrangements.

The report includes a standardised transparency clause, requiring suppliers to regularly release data in a set format. It was produced under the guidance of a taskforce led by the IfG and made up of representatives from government, business and voluntary sector.”

It is a short but incisive report, and unlike many “think tank” outputs is highly practical. Indeed, the core of the document is a set of proposed contractual clauses which the IfG recommends should be included in the Government’s existing Model Services Contract and other major service contracts.

We will be taking a closer look at the proposals shortly, but at first sight, this is good stuff – it does not ignore commercial realities, but if it were implemented, it would certainly change the dynamics of major public contracts for the better.

The other good news is that Francis Maude, the Minister with responsibility for procurement, has received this positively – more positively than some public procurement folk might, we suspect. This is his response - you might notice he has left a bit of wriggle room with that phrase “a similar version of these provisions...”

Today the Institute for Government is proposing standardised transparency provisions for public contracts. These align with our principles on transparency published today, 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. 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.”

More to come, but a welcome development, and we will come back to this shortly. And you can get the whole IfG report here.

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