Final part of Channel 4 News series on public sector outsourcing published

The final part of the Channel Four news series has been published. This time, you may be pleased to hear, there are no videos of me.  Rather, Sonia Rothwell looks at the political connections with the outsourcing firms, many of whom have ex civil / public servants, or politicians, involved with their businesses in some role. As she says;

“Extra-curricular activities help politicians keep in touch with the real world, they argue, and also bring the experience and expertise of leading political figures into other spheres. And of course they help pay the bills for said political figures”.

It’s not illegal of course, as long as MPs for example register their interests.  But the revolving door between Whitehall and the public sector is “whirling as quickly as it ever did”.  She gives some examples of the links.

For example, the beleagured security firm G4S, which benefits annually from £600m of contracts from government, has a former government minister, Whitehall advisers and civil servants on its board.

These include, former home secretary and defence secretary John Reid (now Baron Reid of Cardowan), former Met police commissioner Lord Condon (who earns £124,600 as a non-executive director of G4S), former prison governor Tom Wheatley and helpfully for G4S' energy meter monitoring arm, the former energy regulator Claire Spottiswoode is a non-executive director (earning £56,800).

This isn’t just restricted to G4S of course. And it leads on into the issues of transparency, which we’ve mentioned more than once here. The article does quote me on this point, about the application of Freedom of Information rules:

“Once the Department for Work and Pensions or Ministry of Defence have outsourced some large piece of work - and they're often outsourcing work that includes an element of procurement as well, so the outsourcer is then buying services down the supply chain - we can't ask the same questions."

That’s why I believe we need prime contractors to be subject to FOI, subject of course to exclusions for genuine commercial issues. But if these organizations are going to carry out more and more work for the citizen, funded by the taxpayer, it seems only right that we have a chance to understand how they are working and spending our money.

You can read the whole article here.

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