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PFI secrecy comes under fire

31 Dec 08

Research carried out for ICAS has criticised a lack of accountability in public-private finance schemes

Research carried out for ICAS has criticised a lack of accountability in public-private finance schemes.

Three Manchester Business School academics criticise the lack of information made available by the procuring agencies. It has improved as a result of the Internet, they say, but remains limited and inconsistent.

The researchers, who looked at six road projects worth £1.3 billion, found wide variations between the amounts and types of information released by procuring authorities, and criticise inconsistencies of approach to Freedom of Information Act requests for data.

Private companies are not subject to the act. The Lord Chancellor has the power to bring those involved in public projects into its scope, but this has never happened, and they call on him to do so.

Commercial sensitivity is often used as a reason for non-disclosure, the researchers say, and they call for a limit on how long it can be used.

They note that the strategic case for projects, information on competitiveness of tenders, the case for private rather than public funding, and details of risk sharing are not normally disclosed, and say they should be. Contingent liabilities should be better explained, and comparisons between budgeted and actual performance should be published.

Information about schemes is often aggregated for public sector accounts, and should be separated out, so that individual schemes can be assessed, they say.

The research was funded by the Scottish Accountancy Trust for Education and Research.

 

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PFI | ICAS

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