UK open contracts pledges

2010 – 2015

The coalition government broke its transparency pledge to publish all public contracts in full. It has attempted to backtrack, claiming it never really intended to publish all its contracts in the first place.

Much of the work it did under the programme amounted meanwhile to little more than a stage set it called Contracts Finder.

But it had made open contracts a firm goal, both as an election pledge, a policy, and an international commitment. As a Computer Weekly investigation demonstrated last week, it did less than it said it would.

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2010.02.22.
David Cameron speech at Network for a Post-Bureaucratic Age
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Public contracts to be published “in full” without exception
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Prime minister to-be David Cameron sets his transparency agenda out during the 2010 election campaign with the inaugural speech of the Network for a Post-Bureaucratic Age, a think tank peopled by those who wrote and would go on to help him implement the policy.

(On the very same day, then prime minister Gordon Brown made an almost identical pledge for open public contracts in his own speech – Building Britain’s Digital Future).

“We’ll publish every Government contract worth over £25,000 in full – every clause, every performance measure, every penalty trigger – so people can not only search for waste but small businesses, charities and social enterprises can compete to provide government services.”

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2010.03.11.
Conservative Party 2010 Technology Manifesto

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Open public contracts become key tech pledge
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Computer-led reform is so fundamental to the Conservative Party’s manifesto for government that it dedicates a separate manifesto to it. Transparency is its central theme.

“We will publish online all IT tender documents and IT procurement contracts to enable the public to root out wasteful spending and to help more small businesses bid for government contracts.”

George Osborne, then shadow chancellor wrote in the Forward:

“We will publish online every item of central government and Quango spending over £25,000 – including every contract in full. We will also publish online all government tender documents for contracts worth over £10,000 via the existing Supply2Gov website.”

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2010.04.13
Conservative Party 2010 Manifesto
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Pledge to publish public contracts “in full”
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Removing any doubt the Conservative Party is serious about open contracts, it repeats its pledge to publish all public contracts in-full in its main manifesto.

“We will take steps to open up government procurement to small and innovative businesses by publishing online all government tender documents for contracts worth over £10,000 via the Supply2Gov website.”

We will require full, online disclosure of all central government spending and contracts over £25,000.”

We will require all councils to publish spending above £500, and to publish contracts
and tender documents in full.”

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2010.05.20.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement
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Coalition commits to open contracts pledge
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Unlike the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats doesn’t pledged open contracts. But the Conservative Party makes it a condition of their agreement to form a coalition government.

“We will require full, online disclosure of all central government spending and contracts … and tender documents in full.”

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2010.05.31.
Prime minister transparency letter to government departments
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Cameron gets moving on open contracts right away
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Within a fortnight of taking office, David Cameron commits the contracts pledge into a policy instruction he sent to all government departments: public contracts would be published “in full”.

“Greater transparency across government is at the heart of our shared commitment to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account.

The government must set new standards for transparency, and our Coalition Programme for Government sets out a number of specific commitments.

Limited exemptions on national security and personal privacy grounds will be permitted.

Central government spending transparency

   …

all new central government contracts to be published in full from January 2011
new local government contracts … to be published in full from January 2011″

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2010.11.07.
Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age think tank report
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Cameron lieutenants back open contracts in blueprint for government strategy
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The Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age think tank repeats the contracts pledge in its landmark report – “Better for Less”, which forms the blueprint for the coalition government’s ICT Strategy.

Led by Liam Maxwell, who would subsequently become responsible for implementing the policy as the government’s chief technology officer, the report authors include principle people behind Cameron’s policy: expositors – Cambridge University’s Mark Thompson, Microsoft’s Jerry Fishenden, and Computer Science Corporation’s Simon Wardley; and company directors who would do much work implementing it: Mydex’s William Heath, and Methods Consulting’s Jonathan Sowler and Peter Rowlins.

“With the possible exception of national security, all IT expenditure and contracts over £25k will be published on the web.

Enforce transparency in procurement and commissioning (publication of contracts on award).”

Impose transparency: any IT procurement in any government department will be wholly
transparent and available online.”

[Cabinet Office Crown Commercial Service] to be required to openly publish full details of all new contracts…[and] to publish all existing contracts and to identify suppliers who refuse to let this happen (and any legal impediments to such publication).”

Liam Maxwell however finds it necessary to make redactions:

“I would like to thank the team of writers and collaborators on this project – some named and some for obvious reasons un-named.”

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2010.10.22.
Cabinet Office transparency letter to suppliers
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Government tells suppliers they can redact what they deem confidential
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Bob Ager, head of procurement for the then Central Office of Information, tells suppliers they would be allowed to redact information they deemed commercially confidential if they cite secrecy clauses in the Freedom of Information Act.

“The Prime Minister has set out specific commitments in procurement and contracting.

All new central government contracts over £10,000 to be published in full

Under the terms of this commitment, certain redactions may be required prior to publication in order to protect certain types of information which may be considered exempt from publication. Redactions of contractual text will be permitted in line with the exemptions set out by the Freedom of Information Act.”

COI may, at its sole discretion, redact information from the Contract prior to publishing for one or more of the following reasons:

• national security
personal data
intellectual property
information which is not in the public interest to disclose
third party confidential information
IT security
prevention of fraud “

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2010.11.04.
Science & Innovation Strategy
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Open contracts and open data basis of growth strategy
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Prime minister David Cameron puts his signature on an innovation strategy that relies on full transparency of government business.

“For too long, the Government has failed to release data that could be used by innovative technology companies.

According to Dr Rufus Pollock of Cambridge University, releasing this government data could generate at least £6 billion of new economic activity.

The Government has, therefore, set out a radical agenda for data transparency that will help catalyse the growth of innovative technology companies.

We will tackle the information barriers that prevent many small companies from bidding for contracts by publishing online all government tender documents, as well as contracts worth over £25,000 in full.”

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2011.01.11
Prime minister launches Contracts Finder
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Government website to publish all public contracts in full
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Prime minister David Cameron launches Contracts Finder – a website for publishing government contracts – with a personal email sent by the Cabinet Office. But he seems to describe it more as a means for suppliers to find potential contracting opportunities than as a way to deliver his transparency policy.

“When we came into government, we inherited a system of doing business that was wasteful, inefficient and inflexible. One problem was secrecy – contracts being signed behind closed doors, with no opportunity for public scrutiny. Another was the lack of competition, with small and medium-sized businesses, charities and social enterprises being actively discouraged by the system from competing for government contracts.

Last month, we started to publish every central government contract worth over £25,000 in full, opening them up to scrutiny by potential competitors and the general public. In order to help companies find this business, we are today launching an online tool, Contracts Finder, which will display every central government tender opportunity.”

He also announces the launch to a gathering of SME suppliers at HM Treasury in London that day. He tells them open contracts would let them see their competitors’ pricing.

Last month, we took an unprecedented step, we started to publish every government contract worth over £25,000 in full. I think this will make a huge difference.

Procurement managers will have to make sure they are not subject to over-the-top provisions or penalties, existing suppliers will know they have to offer the best price, and new contractors looking online will be able to see the deals that have been done and will be able to say ‘Well, I could do that for the same or for half or a quarter of what they are charging.’

And to help you to find those opportunities we’re going to go another step further and I can also announce today we’re going to be launching a new online tool – Contracts Finder.  It goes live today; it’s a one-stop shop which will display every central government tender opportunity.”

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2011.02.11.
Procurement Policy Note 05/11
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Formal instruction for public contracts to be published on Contracts Finder
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Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note – “further measures to promote Small Business” / Procurement Information Note 05/11 – says Contracts Finder will publish contracts.

“Package of Measures:

 

a. Launch of Contracts Finder, which will be used to publish procurement and contracting information in one place, including procurement opportunities, tender documents and contracts.”

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2011.03.21.
Cabinet minister statement to parliament
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Francis Maude clarifies that Contracts Finder will publish contract documents
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Contracts Finder will publish contract documents, says Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in written evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee.

“Government has issued two Procurement Policy Notices (PPN) about increasing the number of SMEs involved in government contracts:

• 10th November 2010: PPN 19/10 – ‘Package of announcements to support Small
Businesses’

• 5th February 2011: PPN 05/11: ‘Further measures to promote Small Business
procurement’

These PPNs covered:


• The Contracts Finder website – allowing all businesses to view details of live contract
opportunities, closed tender documentation, contract awards and contract documents;

 

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