One of David Cameron’s first acts as Prime Minister was to order all 17 central Whitehall departments to publish information relating to spending and salaries. So it is deeply depressing to find out that more than two and a half years later only half of departments have complied with the Prime Minister’s instruction.
The PM’s idea was to ‘shine a light’ onto Government expenditure so taxpayers could find out how their money is being spent. However, the Civil Service has responded in a woefully slow fashion, forcing Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to admit that just nine out of seventeen departments have ‘met their commitments to make data available.’
Mr Maude believes that this shows that ‘the release of open data is steadily becoming the norm within government.’ Taxpayers probably won’t be as forgiving of the pathetically slow pace of change as the Minister. Two and a half years is more than long enough for Whitehall to have got its house in order and fully complied with what was a perfectly reasonable demand.
Inevitably, this abject failure will lead taxpayers to suspect that Whitehall has something to hide. Why are these departments so afraid to expose exactly how much they’re spending?
Moreover, if ministers and bureaucrats are either unwilling or unable to do something as simple as publishing the spending data required of them, how can we begin to trust their ability to deliver taxpayer value for money?
Taxpayers demand transparency today, not in another two and a half years. At the end of the day, we are footing the bill, so it’s only fair that we know exactly where our cash is going.