Clearly, we need transparency

But what will alarm people most about the film is the factor the eventually brought one of the world’s largest energy companies to its knees – a lack of corporate transparency.

The truth was, and still is, being hidden from everyone involved with Enron. So what will worry observers most is why, after such a series of corporate catastrophes, there is still an unwillingness to reveal what is going on within large-scale public-sector projects?

It seems that one of the largest lessons in corporate history may not have filtered through as far as many thought into some areas of the consultancy industry.

I say this with good reason. With the ID-card bill yet to complete its passage through parliament, Whitehall has allegedly begun the procurement process of ‘talking’ to potential private bidders for the rights to the lucrative contract. But that’s not all.

One firm, PA Consulting, has been paid for over a year for its ‘advice’ on the matter. Both these factor in one of the most contentious issues concerning national security for decades – and all a long time before the bill has reached royal assent.

If fees have already changed hands, there’s a real risk that questions will be asked about the transparency, not only of the government, but of the consulting industry too. Some control of transparency should be best practice – a theme consultants are passionate about translating to their clients. But both government and PA refuse to be drawn on these issues.

Of course, corporate confidentiality is vital to the success of public sector deals, but so is being clear and open. It is crucial that before any of this is ‘discussed’, there is a process where transparency is top of the agenda. But to those in the industry who question the process, the deal remains a closed case.

It is ironic that at a time when the public may be forced to record all of their personal information on a state database, the government and some of corporate UK remain so secretive. When will the lessons be learned?

James Bennett edits the consultancy page

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