The Government has admitted it has failed again to produce a plan to boost transparency which meets the requirements set out by an international anti-corruption body co-founded by the UK.

A lack of adequate public engagement has led to both key omissions from the National Action Plan for Open Government 2021-2023 and the UK remaining under a review process conducted by the international Open Government Partnership (OPG).

It is mandatory for all 78 OGP member states to produce a new “concrete” reform strategy to bolster transparency and anti-corruption measures at two-year intervals.

The limited engagement meant the Government was unable to include specific action on improving public standards, freedom of information and aid transparency.

It is the third time in recent years that the UK has fallen short of the criteria set out by the OGP, which was established under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government led by David Cameron in 2011.

Pentland Brands plc visit
Former prime minister David Cameron and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (Dan Kitwood/PA)

The Government was first notified by OGP in February 2021 that it had been placed under review after the 2019-2021 plan failed to meet the minimum requirement for “public influence and co-creation”.

The previous plan also fell short of requirements by being submitted late.

On publishing the latest plan on Monday, the Government said it was developed in “the unique circumstances of the pandemic” which placed constraints on input from civil society and public sector capacity.

The Government added commitments relating to standards, freedom of information and aid transparency would therefore be developed in full over the course of 2022.

The introduction to the plan said: “We also recognise the importance of ensuring strong safeguards against corruption at home, as well as tackling the UK’s role in global illicit financial flows.

“The Government will therefore begin a co-creation process with civil society to develop separate commitments on standards in public life and access to information.”

The plan was published as the Prime Minister continued to face intense scrutiny on standards and transparency over alleged parties in No 10 and Whitehall during lockdown.

The Government minister responsible for open Government, Lord Agnew of Oulton, recently resigned over what he described as the “schoolboy” handling of fraudulent Covid-19 business loans.

The published draft has been heavily criticised by the organisation which coordinates civil society’s input into the process, with claims key elements had been removed ahead of publication.

Lord Agnew resignation
Lord Agnew of Oulton speaking in the House of Lords (PA)

In remarks reported by, Kevin Keith, chair of the UK Open Government Network, said: “This plan could have demonstrated the government is serious about rebuilding that trust, yet repeated requests to the Government for a commitment on public standards were ignored, many commitments have been watered down including on corruption, and some have been taken out completely. It’s contemptuous.”

The action plan includes an intention to improve public procurement, which has been in the spotlight due to concerns over the use of a so-called VIP lane for lucrative contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment.

It also said legislation will be brought forward in line with the recent Declaration on Government Reform, which pledged a shake-up Whitehall through enhanced training for civil servants and collaboration across departments, to improve transparency throughout the process of procurement and delivery.

Another inclusion is a promise to promote open justice through greater public access to information on cases and judgements.

There is also a commitment to making it easier for the public to challenge decisions made by Government departments which use algorithms to inform decisions.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The UK is strengthening transparency, accountability, civil participation and innovation across Government and is committed to tackling corruption at home and abroad.

“Since the fourth National Action Plan was published, seven of our eight commitments have been completed and we are continuing to progress a number of longer term actions.

“The Covid-19 pandemic affected the pace at which commitments could be developed in full as the Government rightfully focused on protecting the NHS and saving lives.”