21 June 2016

Public interest served by contract disclosure #nlpoli

There's no small irony that NAPE is fighting to increase public disclosure of government spending while other public sector unions are busily trying to drag the public back into the Dark Ages by hiding the names of union members earning more than $100,000 a year in pay and benefits.

NAPE is trying to get access to contracts awarded by Eastern health to two privates companies.  The union appealed to the information commissioner and last week the commissioner issued rulings that Eastern Health should release the contracts.

NAPE is right:  it is in the public interest to have the contract details in public.  That's why the access law  says that it isn't an invasion of privacy to reveal the financial and other details of a contract to provide goods and services to the public.

That doesn't mean that NAPE is right that the public sector can supply the services in this case more efficiently than the private companies can. In fact,  there's good reason to believe that the public sector has a great deal of difficulty providing many services as cost-effectively as a private company can.

Regardless, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent and to make sure that citizens are getting the best return on their spending.  Competition between the public sector and the private sector might be a way of injecting some life back into the bloated, ineffective public sector and getting managers and workers alike to rediscover that it is is supposed to be about serving the public.