Secrecy behind UK public spending could be protecting the corrupt – report

© Sukree Sukplang
Britain’s culture of secrecy and information denial around public spending could be fueling widespread corruption, according to a hard-hitting report by Transparency International.

In one shocking revelation Transparency International revealed in the study how in the borough of Hackney £14 million (US$18 million) was invested in projects but documents were so heavily redacted that it was impossible even to tell who received the cash.

The NGO found that procedures were so opaque that the public would likely only be able to get information on around one third of cases and would likely have little chance of knowing where to go to find further details.

The ‘Counting the Pennies’ study also found that when data was available and accessible from local authorities it was displayed in ways so numerous and complex that they defied analysis.

The authors wrote that information was presented with no fewer than “81,057 different column names used by public authorities to describe the money they have spent.

Transparency International UK director Duncan Hames said the blurry nature of the transactions could succor and protect corrupt individuals.

Open data is an essential tool in the fight against corruption. Real transparency significantly reduces hiding places for corrupt individuals and allows the public to hold the government to account,” he told the Independent.

There is a danger that although the government are ticking the right boxes, the true spirit of transparency is being lost. The result is a missed opportunity to flush out questionable contacts and root out waste.

The study, which analyzed £2.3 trillion of publicly available transactions made by national and local government between 2011 and 2015, concluded that “the UK has, in theory, one of the most open governments in the world, [but] the system is not working properly in practice.”