The Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank close to the Labour Party, has called for greater transparency in PFI deals
The IPPR tested the openness of the PFI process by picking 22 projects at random from the Office of Government Commerce's signed deals list.

It then sought to obtain basic information that would not compromise the commercial security of the projects.

This included how the decision to use PFI was taken, how the project met the needs of the public, and what it would all cost.

It found that documents were made available for:

  • Nine out of 10 NHS deals
  • Five out of 10 local authority projects
  • Four out of 10 schools projects
  • None out of six central government schemes.

Tim Gosling, a researcher with the IPPR, said transparency was essential to ensure value for money. He doubted that the information would harm the interests of the public or private sector.

Government and private firms need openness to build trust in the process

Tim Gosling, IPPR

He said: "Government and the private companies need openness to build trust in the process. The NHS leads the way in being open about PFI projects. There is no reason that other areas where PFI projects are being pursued cannot match this transparency.

"It is particularly relevant for schools and libraries, where the public have a direct stake in hearing about the contract and the rationale for the project."

The IPPR said that Policy 4 on the Treasury taskforce's guidance on PFI allows public scrutiny of PFI documents after financial close. However, the advice is not binding so the government is not under any obligation to improve the process.

Bill Tallis, chief executive of the Major Contractors' Group, supported the move towards greater transparency. The MCG has called for the OGC to set up a computerised resource of all PFI projects available.