Tell the government to extend FOI to contractors

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is essential to holding the government accountable. But it’s being undermined by a major loophole: it doesn’t apply to government contractors.

go.cfoi.org.uk

Will you help get FOI extended to government contractors?

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is essential to holding the government accountable. But it’s being undermined by a major loophole: it doesn’t apply to government contractors.

Since the Act was passed, outsourcing has vastly expanded. Government now spends £292bn a year buying goods and services – more than a third of all public expenditure. Private companies like Serco, G4S and Capita receive millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, but because they’re not subject to FOI we can’t properly hold them to account.

During the pandemic £10.5bn of government contracts were awarded without competitive tender and hundreds of millions was spent on “potentially unsuitable” PPE according to the National Audit Office, the spending watchdog. It also found that suppliers with political connections were 10 times more likely to receive government contracts.

Access to contractor-held information depends on the public authority and contractor agreeing to clauses in the contract which permit it – a totally unacceptable situation that allows vital information to be withheld from the public.

We think the FOI Act should be extended to cover all contractor-held information via an FOI request to the public authority. Major contractors should be required to answer requests directly.

Support for bringing contractors under FOI has come from:

  • The Information Commissioner, who enforces the FOI Act. 
  • The House of Commons Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs Committee 
  • The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee 
  • The Committee on Standards in Public Life 
  • The government appointed Independent Commission on Freedom of Information 
  • The UK Anti-Corruption Coalition, which brings together 18 of the UK’s leading anti-corruption organisations 
  • The Open Government Network of civil society organisations

But we need to show there is huge public support for it too. This is where you can help:

Thank you!

Katherine Gundersen

Campaign for Freedom of Information

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