Suppliers face greater scrutiny on council ICT contracts

Suppliers could be forced to reveal more details about ICT contracts with local authorities after the government today announced its intention to reform freedom of information laws.

Justice minister Simon Hughes told the House of Commons that the government would increase the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to cover private companies carrying out public functions by as soon as the end of this year.

The requirements could lead to greater scrutiny of deals signed between councils and ICT suppliers

Hughes said: “We do intend to extend FoI further as soon as it will be practical. 

“We intend to publish a revised code of practice to make sure that those private companies that carry out public functions have freedom of information requirements in their contracts, and go further than that, and we hope that will be in place by the end of this year.”

The announcement comes less than a week after Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee called for FOI laws to apply to private firms carrying out public work.

Its report said: “Too often the government has used commercial confidentiality as an excuse to withhold information, often in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from the public or MPs.”

During an evidence session held by the committee late last year, senior representatives from Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco all said they would have no objection to greater scrutiny of their contracts with public bodies.

Last month, Birmingham City Council published the contract for Service Birmingham, its joint venture with Capita, following a public campaign for greater transparency.

Colin Marrs

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