Out-Law News 1 min. read

Government will publish details of IT contracts within weeks

All new Government contracts will be made public from next month as part of the Government's bid to increase transparency. Prime Minister David Cameron has written to departments informing them of the change.

Cameron has decided to make a raft of Government financial information available to the public in a staged process starting now and running into next year.

The COINS database which tracks actual public spending against budgets has now been made public. New IT contracts will be published within weeks, while tender documents for all central Government contracts worth over £10,000 will be published from September. All new central Government contracts will be published from January 2011, when details of all central Government and international development spending of over £25,000 will also be published.

"Greater transparency across Government is at the heart of our shared commitment to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account; to reduce the deficit and deliver better value for money in public spending; and to realise significant economic benefits by enabling businesses and non-profit organisations to build innovative applications and websites using public data," said Cameron in his letter to all cabinet ministers.

"The Government must set new standards for transparency, and our Coalition Programme for government sets out a number of specific commitments. The Government’s initial transparency commitments are set out [in the letter], alongside deadlines for publication. Limited exemptions on national security and personal privacy grounds will be permitted," he said.

The changes will extend to local government, where spending of over £500 and contracts and tenders worth over £500 will be made public from January 2011.

Cameron has asked departments to take "immediate action" to ensure that the deadlines are met and that the information is usable by people regardless of the computer systems they use.

"[Departments should] ensure that any data published is made available in an open format so that it can be re-used by third parties," he said. "From July 2010, government departments and agencies should ensure that any information published includes the underlying data in an open standardised format."

The publishing of contract details is just one part of a broader programme of transparency, Cameron said. The Government will establish a Public Sector Transparency Board based in the Cabinet Office which will include as a member mySociety founder Tom Steinberg.

Steinberg is behind sites such as MP-research tool TheyWorkForYou.com and freedom of information tool WhatDoTheyKnow.com.

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