Local Government Review — May 2014: transparency in outsourced contracts
The transparency agenda has been high on the coalition government’s list of priorities since it came to power four years ago. However, in those four years there has been significant outsourcing of public functions, not all without controversy. Recently, concerns have been voiced that it is difficult to find out what has been going on in these outsourced contracts — until it is too late.
Public functions that are carried on in house are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), so in theory (unless an exemption applies) anyone can find out information about how those functions are carried out. When those functions are outsourced to a private company, the position is less clear. The FOIA applies to information held by a public authority or ‘by another person on behalf of the authority’ (section 3  [b]). But it is not always easy to tell when a contractor is holding information on behalf of a public authority (which would be subject to the FOIA) or on its own behalf (which would not be). A recent Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) blog gives an example of a local authority contracting out the management of a leisure centre to a private company, and whether information about the number of people using the gym was the company’s information or the authority’s. If the former, then there would be no way that a member of the public could compare usage of the gym before and after the contracting-out.
The ICO is concerned that ‘if significant information about the operation and delivery of public services is no longer covered [by the FOIA], then we are witnessing a gradual reduction of the scope of FOIA’, with the risk of corresponding reductions in transparency, efficiency and public trust…
Click on the link below to read the rest of the Walker Morris briefing.
Sign in or Register to continue reading this article
It's quick, easy and free!
It takes just 5 minutes to register. Answer a few simple questions and once completed you’ll have instant access.Register now
Why register to The Lawyer
In-depth, expert analysis into the stories behind the headlines from our leading team of journalists.
Identify the major players and business opportunities within a particular region through our series of free, special reports.
Receive your pick of The Lawyer's daily and weekly email newsletters, tailored by practice area, region and job function.
More relevant to you
To continue providing the best analysis, insight and news across the legal market we are collecting some information about who you are, what you do and where you work to improve The Lawyer and make it more relevant to you.
News from Walker Morris
News from The Lawyer
Briefings from Walker Morris
The Infrastructure Act is intended to boost investment in development projects. The practical and commercial implications of the new measures are wideranging.
In Andrew Parissis v Blair Court (St John’s Wood) Management, the judge in the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) provided some useful guidance.
Analysis from The Lawyer
Which firms are cutting it in this era of slimline rosters, and who are the GC new brooms making clean sweeps? The Lawyer can reveal all
The law school war shows no signs of ending. But we have, perhaps, reached the end of the beginning.