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UK government to trial 'open' contracting on High Speed 2

Contracts relating to the construction of High Speed 2 (HS2), the new national high speed railway, will be the first to be made fully public, the UK government has announced.

As part of last week's anti-corruption summit, the UK announced that it would adopt the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) for all contracts procured through its central purchasing authority, the Crown Commercial Service. The standard, which allows the public to follow the entire process of awarding public sector contracts from bid through to build, will be fully adopted by October 2016, with HS2 used as a pilot, according to the announcement.

A total of 13 countries, including the UK, have committed to full adoption or greater use of the OCDS in their own public contracts following the anti-corruption summit in London last week. Additionally, 12 countries including the UK intend to introduce tougher checks and mechanisms to prevent corrupt businesses from winning public contracts.

"The UK is determined to lead the fight against corruption, which is why we are committing ourselves to increasing transparency, introducing additional criminal checks and creating a new anti-corruption hub," said Matt Hancock of the Cabinet Office.

"There is nothing inevitable about countries being held back by the scourge of corruption, but it is a global problem that requires coordinated action. We must act together to make sure there is no hiding place for those that perpetrate the corruption that spreads injustice and divides our world," he said.

The announcement makes the UK the first of the G7 largest global economies to commit to the use of the OCDS for contracts administered by its central purchasing authority. However at least nine other countries, including Mexico, have indicated that they intend to apply the OCDS to contracts for the delivery of specific major projects.

Developed by the non-governmental Open Contracting Partnership, the OCDS requires the disclosure of all data and documents relating to the contract at all stages of the contracting process, using a common data model. The standard was first published in 2014 and the Open Contracting Partnership intends to review and update its principles during 2016/17.

In a statement, the UK government said that its commitment was intended to "shift the global default from closed to open public contracting"; which would in time reduce fraud and corruption and create more business opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as improving "citizen engagement and innovation".

The UK also plans to introduce an additional conviction check as part of the tendering process; to ensure that individuals and companies that have been convicted of bribery, fraud or other corruption offences are effectively prevented from winning public contracts. It intends to work with other global governments to improve information sharing, and flag bidders with relevant convictions, as part of this process.

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