Report reveals lack of accountability in government data
Written by Andrew Holt
It is impossible to measure national government compliance with the Compact, according to a new report.
Compact Voice has today published a report detailing the responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, submitted by Compact Voice to 14 government departments.
The requests aimed to determine the way government is supporting the voluntary sector by looking at levels and changes to funding, and also engagement through consultation and impact assessment.
However, the responses suggest that there are no systems in place to enable government departments to collect and compare this information.
Departments are largely unable to share certain information about engagement with the voluntary sector and the Compact, making it impossible to determine progress and support with implementing the mutually agreed principles it contains.
Simon Blake OBE, chair of Compact Voice, said: “We know that strong leadership from government sends a message down the line to local areas, so we are disappointed that the lack of transparency from government is masking positive partnership activities between the sectors.
"Government has repeatedly committed to accountability and transparency with the sector which I welcome. But to achieve this ,the data requested must be recorded. We expected some variation across government, but this report is a wake-up call for all of us and shows there is clearly lot to do. We look forward to working with departments to make progress on this critical area."
Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of NCVO, added: “Commitment to the Compact is one of the key ways government has stated its support for the voluntary and community sector. This report shows that government needs to do more to provide reassurance that it is dedicated to providing accountability and transparency in its dealings with the sector.”
In response to the report, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Government views the Compact with high importance. The Compact was specifically cited as one of only 6 cross cutting Whitehall priorities in all Departmental Business Plans, against which government reports on annually in a public and transparent way. It was specifically cited in recent government guidance on consultation.
"Every central government department is now required to publish spend to the Voluntary and Community sector within their business plans. This is the first time government has done this which demonstrates our commitment to transparency in this area. We are committed to making data available and Cabinet Office is happy to work with Compact Voice on this agenda going forward.”
Compact Voice is aware of encouraging work being done by government to promote and support the Compact. However this is not reflected in the ways that departments are reporting their activities and progress against certain commitments.
The report contains several recommendations, which suggest ways in which the government can better report on its interactions with the voluntary sector.
For more information and to read the full report, visit www.compactvoice.org.uk/FOI2012.
Editor Matt Ritchie covers the final Budget for this Parliament, and the official start of the 2015 election campaign