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Freedom of Information Act – Regulations To Apply To Contractors

The Cabinet Office (CO) has said that it is planning to expand the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to cover contractors dealing with public services. A revised code of practice related to FOI is expected to be introduced in the autumn and will be reviewed and agreed across the government where it relates to contractors.
The new guidelines are the CO's response to recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee, which said that it wanted to see FOI provisions becoming part of contracts with private providers, according to an article on the Supply Management website. In cases where public services come from external providers, contractors will be expected to support the government in meeting FOI obligations, the CO said. The purpose of the new policies is to make contractors' performance information transparent. The required measures will be agreed on with the Confederation of British Industry. The CO also said that it is considering testing wider use of open book accounting during the next six months. This will help identify types of contracts and improved department capabilities required for maximising the benefits of open book accounting, the CO added. Reforms in the field of supplier services have saved taxpayers £5.4 billion just during last year, according to Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude. However, more must be done to boost transparency without overburdening businesses, particularly small and medium-size firms, Maude added. The CO's efforts aim to improve commercial capability while also increasing accountability and driving greater openness, the minister concluded.