Procurement Reform Must Include Extension of FOI

The Government has been urged to extend Freedom of Information Act to contractors providing public goods and services as part of plans for post-Brexit public procurement.

The Government’s ‘Transforming Public Procurement’ green paper uses the terms “transparent” or “transparency” no fewer than 64 times in its 82 pages, according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

But while the emphasis on transparency is welcome, it raises the question of why the Government has not addressed the most conspicuous transparency defect in the UK’s procurement arrangements: much of the information the public might seek about public sector contracts is beyond the reach of FOI, the CFOI added.

The News Media Association has joined the CFOI in calling for the extension of FOI to contractors performing public functions, arguing that hundreds of millions of pounds of public money is effectively exempt from public scrutiny.

The Campaign is promoting a Private Member’s Bill to close this loophole by:

  • Bringing the very largest contractors directly under FOI in their own right;
  • Amending the FOI Act so that information held by other public sector contractorsis treated as held on a public authority’s behalf and accessible via a FOI request to the authority.

Many national FOI laws around the world already cover contractors delivering public services, including those of Australia, Bangladesh, Estonia, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago and Ukraine.

Over 71,000 people have already signed the CFOI’s petition calling for the FOI Act to be extended to public sector contractors. Add your voice by signing and sharing the  petition. Read the CFOI’s full submission here.