Finding the Facts on PFI

Apr 14, 2011

The Private Finance Initiative is funded, ultimately, with taxpayers’ money. We would expect, then, that details of the scheme are as transparent and accessible as any other governmental information. But this is not the case. In fact, obtaining information about PFI is both difficult and time consuming.

Despite the coalition’s mission to become the “most open and accessible government in the world”, it would appear that the government has overlooked the publication of PFI information while on its transparency drive.

However, the coalition has made PFI marginally more transparent than it was under New Labour. Some information is now routinely published by the Treasury and its affiliated PFI body Partnerships UK but many crucial details remain hidden from public view. Fortunately, there is some legislation that can help us enormously.

Using the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), GR has requested the following details for a range of PFI projects tendered by the departments of Health, Education and Defence, among others.

- the names of all companies in the consortium

- the contract between the consortium and government

- the contracts between each private company within the consortium

- the total money that each company will receive for each year of the contract

Obtaining this information will form the bedrock of our investigative campaign. It will allow us to survey the landscape of PFI through a more critical lens, observing which private companies and government bodies have made the greatest respective profits and losses.

We are also planning to make further, complementary FoI requests. We want to know details of the projects with the greatest overspends and the projects that have been delivered furthest behind schedule. We want to know, on a case-by-case basis, exactly how much risk is transferred by government to the private sector. We want to know which banks are lending to PFI consortiums and at what interest rates. We want to read the reports, if there are any, of the public consultation conducted about specific PFI projects.

As we receive responses to our requests we will write case studies and profiles on the most notorious companies, projects and politicians involved in the world of the Private Finance Initiative.

Globalise Resistance is also campaigning for information on PFI to be routinely published. At a recent conference on freedom of information, the Information Commissioner’s Office announced that a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) select committee will be conducting “post-legislative scrutiny” of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA). The committee will consider extending the act to sectors which are not currently covered by the act but which are funded by public money and thereby represent public interests.

After a similar review last month, the MoJ announced that all private companies wholly owned by public bodies, including ACPO, would fall under the FoIA as of October 2011.

In addition to the Treasury Select Committee submission (more details coming soon), GR is also preparing to give evidence to the MoJ committee and will call for the base aspects of PFI projects outlined above (name, contracts etc) to be adopted into a system of routine publication.

At GR we recognise that campaigning is about much more than writing letters to your MP(s). We have a number of strategies within our campaigning tool-kit and we always welcome new people and ideas. If you would like to get involved send an email to and ask to be part of the PFI working group. We’ll be meeting next week for an open discussion on new ways to mobilise against PFI.

  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • PDF
  • RSS
  • Twitter

Comments are closed.