CBI calls for greater transparency over outsourcing contracts

Government contracts should be audited by the National Audit Office (NAO) to improve transparency about public service outsourcing, business organisation the CBI has said.

Paul Heartfield

By Suzannah.Brecknell

05 Mar 2014

Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO of outsourcing firm Mitie and chair of CBI’s public services board, said: “All businesses delivering public services need to do more to build a trusting relationship with the public.” To do this, public service businesses within the CBI have set out four measures which they believe will improve transparency, competition and trust in the sector.

As well as outsourcing contracts to NAO scrutiny, the CBI is calling for all government contracts to be published online, with clear reasons given if this does not happen; for a presumption in favour of open book accounting in outsourcing contracts, which would allow for frank discussions about  contractors’ profits; and for contract negotiations to include discussions on how information on the resulting contract and service can be proactively released in an accessible and comparable format.

Speaking at a round table event to launch the recommendations, CBI director-general John Cridland (pictured above) said that government also has a role to play in increasing transparency:  “If we’re stepping up to the plate, making more information available, we need the government to be prepared to step up to the plate and work with us."

“The government needs to overhaul its online contracts database, it needs to be more prepared to allow people it contracts with to release public data. There are issues on both sides of the contract.”

The CBI also released research conducted by Oxford Economics, which found that public services sector accounts for 7.2% of GDP, and support 5.4m jobs across the UK.

Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “As part of this government’s long term economic plan, we are opening up public service provision to a wide mix of suppliers. All contracts over £10,000 are published online and a third of government contracts are now open book. We work to balance transparency requirements with ensuring minimum bureaucracy for suppliers.”

Report by Elysia Wright and Suzannah Brecknell

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