Institute for Government lauds move towards contract transparency

Think tank praises updated blueprint for public-sector procurement but warns new clause must be used

By Jim.Dunton

08 Jun 2016

Ministers have been applauded for the transparency clause inserted into the latest version of the government's model services contract.

Institute for Government programme director Jo Casebourne said the latest revisions to the model contract – the blueprint for major contracts with private sector suppliers – would enable the wider publication of performance details and allow for greater scrutiny of deals.

Cabinet Office guidance on the new contract, which runs to more than 70 pages, says open-book arrangements have been simplified and a range of informative summary financial reports introduced that are based on Ministry of Defence procurement practice. 

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“Overall contract performance will be reported regularly and will be open to public scrutiny,” it adds.  “Balanced scorecards will be features of all contracts and may be published on departmental websites.”

Casebourne said the new model contract would shine new light on the conduct of private-sector providers – so long as the clause was included in actual contracts.

“We have continued to see a number of high-profile problems that have brought into question the government’s ability to manage public-service contracts, as well as undermined public confidence in outsourced service provision,” she said.

“On top of the Serco and G4S tagging scandal, and the collapse of Kids Company, we’ve seen recent examples of schools being closed due to botched construction by private contractors and new providers of non-emergency ambulance services forcing patients to miss appointments.

“All these contracts provided at best a patchy indication of how much money providers received, and it was very difficult to find out exactly who received how much for what, or how well providers were performing. There were also problems with government itself, with questions being asked as to whether the contracts were being managed properly.”

She added: "We look forward to seeing the government’s actions lead to real change, seeing how the clause is used and whether the information it produces is useful,” she said.

The new model services contract also includes extra clauses designed to prevent bribery.

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