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UK taxpayers denied full openness over public finances

 26th September 2016, London – The UK’s transparency over public spending is “ticking the right boxes” but failing to provide full and open scrutiny over how taxpayers’ money is being spent, according to new research from Transparency International UK. In over a third of public contracts, it is unclear to whom they have been awarded.

Whilst public finance transparency is much better in the UK than many other places globally, poor quality, inaccessible and redacted data is preventing the public, journalists and investigators from scrutinising public spending.

In one case Lancashire County Council redacted numerous payments for a multi-billion pound PFI scheme, leaving no information about the name of the contractor. In another example, Nottingham City Council redacted the details of £10m-worth of expenditure.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy Transparency International UK, said:

“Whether exposing lobbying abuses or unearthing undeclared conflicts of interest, open data is an essential tool in the fight against corruption. Real transparency significantly reduces hiding places for corrupt individuals and allows the public to hold the Government to account.”

“Transparency isn’t just about dumping data – it must also be easy to access and read, timely, and crucially complete. There is a danger that although the Government are ticking the right boxes, the true spirit of transparency is being lost. The result is a missed opportunity to flush out questionable contacts and root out waste.”

“Commitments made by the Government in the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan are a positive step but the Government must now work with civil society, business and other stakeholders to ensure they are implemented in practice.”

Key statistics in “Counting the pennies: increasing the transparency in the UK’s public finances” include:

  • £2.312 trillion – Total value of published transactions made by local and central government (2011-2015).
  • £14 million – Redacted transaction data reported in a single month by Hackney London Borough Council that did not identify suppliers – largest in this research.
  • 35% – Proportion of contracts awarded where it is unclear who the supplier is.
  • 81,057 – Different descriptions given to transactions making analysis of data near impossible
  • 0.75% – Proportion of transactions that contain company registration numbers.

***ENDS***

Contact:
Dominic Kavakeb
Dominic.kavakeb@transparency.org.uk
020 3096 7695/ 079 6456 0340

To access and download the full report click here

Notes to Editor:

A previous version of this press release carried a statistic relating to Department of Education (DFE) expenditure of £4.9 billion. The DFE, has since provided explanations for a large proportion of this sum, but there remains unexplained expenditure, as much as £4.9 million in a single month. This places it 8th in the list of public bodies making the largest redactions, where previously it had been first.

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Read 90 times Last modified on Tuesday, 7 March 2017 10:29

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