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Maude: Gov contracts 'made my eyes water'

Sloppy senior ministers don't know what they're signing

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said he was shocked by things he found when renegotiating government contracts over the summer.

Speaking at the government's Open Data conference on 19 November 2010, he told the audience that in the past departments have signed inefficient deals because senior ministers "have not always taken seriously the obligation to look at what is in the contracts they are signing and understand it properly".

Maude stressed that this attitude will not change unless people in Whitehall know that they are being scrutinised and contract agreements are clearer.

"The whole culture around public spending will need to change. There's another way transparency can save money. At the moment government contracts, goods and services, which are worth as you've seen billions of pounds a year, are negotiated behind closed doors, closed off from strong competition," the minister explained.

"There are competitive processes, but actually the way we do procurement is often excluding smaller suppliers from the process. Very costly, very over-engineered and it isn't the open competition that we want to see that really does drive value and drives innovation."

When the government starts putting all its contract agreements online next year as part of its transparency drive, new contractors will be able to see the deals being done and be able to fairly compete, said Maude.

During the event, which marked the publication of central government spending data over £25,000, he also acknowledged that publishing information "is against the grain of what governments tend to want to do", but added that the coalition remains committed to becoming "the most transparent government in the world".

"We want as a government to create what we've called a power shift and move power and control decisively from elites in Westminster to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities."

This article was originally published at Kable.

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