Freedom of Information act should apply to private firms carrying out public sector work valued at £5m or more, report suggests

 
William Turvill
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A Government-commissioned report has suggested private companies should face greater scrutiny under FOI (Source: Getty)

Private companies carrying out public sector work should come under greater scrutiny, after a new report has said.

The independent commission on FoI has today suggested that "information concerning the performance or delivery of public services” through contracts worth £5m or more be brought under the act.

But its report, published today, acknowledged that making private companies responsible for providing this information "would be burdensome and unnecessary".

The group, which includes former Labour MP Jack Straw, said details of that work should be "treated as being held on behalf of the contracting public authority" instead.

Read more: Companies should comply with FoI laws, public believe

"This would make such information available to requestors who make requests to the contracting public authority," the report explained.

However, while the Cabinet Office is considering 21 formal recommendations, this is not one, as the report put it forward as a lesser "provisional view".

Last month, a poll commissioned by campaigns group 38 Degrees found six in 10 British adults believed private companies carrying out public sector work should be subject to FoI.

Read more: Get used to private firms working with the state

The commission said it was “persuaded that there is a need for greater transparency in outsourced public services”.

However, it noted that some contracts are “very low in value” and said a threshold should be introduce to prevent taxpayers and smaller businesses from facing an "unnecessary burden".

"In our view any private company which is delivering public services under contract with a value at or greater than £5m per financial year should be covered.

"The total of £5m should relate to either a single contract, or the cumulative value of contracts with that public authority within a single financial year."

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