Government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly, also giving evidence, said it has proved difficult to collate data on the government’s contracts because some departments are being advised by their lawyers not to share information – a situation that committee chair Bernard Jenkin called “absolutely astonishing”.
Releasing this data, said Crothers, would identify cases of excessive charges or margins. “Perfect competition requires perfect information, and I think this would move towards perfect information,” he said. “I think it would be a good thing.”
Kelly said a lot of work still lies ahead to enable the government to act as “one crown”, adding that departments’ reluctance to share data on contracts would be seen as “a nonsense in the private sector”.
He also said capability among procurement officials should be improved, and admitted that he doesn’t have a full list of procurement professionals. Asked by Jenkin to list the numbers in each department, Kelly replied he could only put the total number at 3,500. Crothers added that the Civil Service Board has given its approval for the creation of a central database of procurement professionals.