Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Who knows where the money goes?

The opposition of Glasgow 2014 to telling you what they are doing with your money, is yet another example of why the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) should be extended to private companies and other organisations that increasingly deliver our public services, and spend our money. It is a pity that the last Scottish Government dropped its proposals to start that process.

The kind of outdated thinking expounded by Lord Smith, claiming that private companies will run away from contracts with his body, should they have to tell us what they do with our money, has long been dispersed from guidance that form the procedures that public bodies and the Scottish Information Commissioner have operated under since 2005. Indeed this guidance strongly advises public authorities NOT to include so-called ‘confidentiality clauses’ in contracts. Has Lord Smith included such clauses in their contracts?

But of course Glasgow 2014 is a private company, and they claim they are not subject to the FOI(S)A. Although, because they are one of the quasi-public bodies increasingly used (particularly by Glasgow City Council) to avoid the cumbersome business of accountability, it may not be quite as open and shut as they would like to think (publicly owned companies are already subject to the Act).

This sort of old-style resistance to telling us what is going on is, of course one of the reasons that the SIC and many other bodies argued strongly for the last Scottish government to extend the coverage of FOI(S)A. An extension they unfortunately dropped in the run up to the last Scottish Election.

Failing to divulge public information will, of course, increase damaging speculation about expenditure and motivation when events turn newsworthy. Contrariwise (you can see I’m reading a Lewis Carroll biography), openness is the way to effectively deal with public relations crises. Any (good) PR expert can tell you that.

So, in charge of of the 80% publicly-funded Commonwealth Games, we have an organisation that a) is apparently unaware of the guidance on contractual confidentiality that public bodies abide by, and b) either does not have, or chooses to ignore standard public relations practice. Not an impressive track record. No wonder we need private sector information to be opened up when they spend our money!

1 comment:

  1. It is a truly shocking situation Chris. Unacceptable that private companies employed on public contracts and paid with our money should be allowed to do so under an information black-out.