Government spending transparency bill

The Conservatives’ proposed bill for more transparent government spending is going through the House of Lords. Initially, the Bill’s drafters hoped the Bill would be called the Government Spending (Transparency) Bill but they were told by the Public Bill Office that ‘transparency’ is a slogan and slogans are not allowed. So instead it is called the Government Spending (Website) Bill.

The core of the bill was outlined Friday by its sponsor Baroness Noakes in the House of Lords. Basically, it calls for a publicly available, free searchable website where citizens can find out how much the Government has spent with individual suppliers such as EDS, or on particular things, such as travel and entertainment.

Baroness Noakes says: “Transparency is a weapon in the war to win value for money, and the Bill is designed to improve transparency about government spending, thereby contributing to a climate of openness and debate. Poor value for money should have nowhere to hide.”

I’ve written before about the need for such transparency. The US Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act 2006 is already law in the US. The Congressional Budget Office estimated a cost of $4 million in the first year and about $15 million in total over the first four years. Baroness Noakes is confident that it cannot be any more expensive to do the same thing in the UK. I think it should be cheaper as the UK has a much smaller budget and is far more centralised than the USA (though is also far more incompetently run). She quotes a figure of £2 million in the first year and £7.5 million over four years. This would be money well spent for it is only transparency that ensures public money is spent wisely.

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