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UK's commitment to open government called into question

 

The UK joins a list of nine countries that have been censured by the body in the past, including Bulgaria, Malawi, Malta and South Africa

The UK Government has been criticised for a lack of transparency and accountability.

The UK has been formally put under review by the Open Government Partnership for failing to involve the public in the development of its plan for increasing openness, and for submitting its most recent two plans late.

The decisions has been taken amidst a background of high-profile scandals that have questioned the government’s commitment to transparency, such as cronyism claims around PPE contracts handed out at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and how requests under the Freedom of Information Act are being handled.

The UK joins a list of nine countries that have been censured by the body in the past, including Bulgaria, Malawi, Malta and South Africa.

UK civil society groups are working with the government on a new open government action plan, however TFN understands there are disagreements around the speed of progress being made.

Kevin Keith, chair of the UK Open Government Network, said: "The UK government's reputation for openness and accountability is in freefall.

"It shows how far we have fallen in a decade and is symptomatic of wider problems including the unlawful failure to publish contracts awarded during the pandemic."

The UK played a key role in the founding of the partnership in 2011, and is its biggest funder, donating £6.8 million over three years.

The Open Government Network, a collection of groups devoted to openness and democratic reform, has sent a letter to Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez saying it is "very concerned" by the UK being placed under review.

The letter, which has been signed by organisations such as Full Fact, the Open Data Institute and the Open Contracting Partnership, calls on the government to "build trust with its citizens" by giving "clear political support" to efforts to improve openness.

Gavin Hayman, executive director of the Open Contracting Partnership, which works to increase transparency in procurement, said that ministers needed to work harder to improve trust in government.

"The UK is hosting two of the world's most important summits in its first year after Brexit - the G7 and the Glasgow Climate Conference. There is no better time for this government to demonstrate that it is committed to open democracy," he told Sky News.

"This letter is about seizing that opportunity, reinvigorating the UK's open government process, and using it to drive vital domestic reforms like fixing public procurement."

A government spokesperson said: "The government is absolutely committed to transparency and public accountability in all it does.

"As a founding member of the Open Government Partnership, we remain deeply committed to upholding its core values of transparency, accountability, and public participation."

 

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