At some point I will review the HM Treasury report in detail but for now have a look at what I submitted to the government's PFI review, on transparency issues, earlier this year. I had talked about a 'mandatory annual public reporting' obligation for every PFI deal, similar to the reporting quoted companies have to do. The good news is that the review, released this week, mentions that the government will publish an annual report detailing project and financial information on all projects – but only where the government holds a public stake. I think it should also include projects where they don't hold equity – but it's a start.
My written evidence submitted to HM Treasury on Reform of the Private Finance Initiative on 9th February 2012
I believe that PFI arrangements have much to learn from the transparent approaches adopted by quoted companies. Under their Investor Relations (IR) programmes, listed companies, offer accountability and transparency through both regulatory and voluntary activities which keep their stakeholders informed of their performance and governance. This helps to build trust and demonstrates a responsible investment approach.
By Financial Close on a PFI deal, the public sector party has access to as much project information as the private sector. Under SoPC4, the public sector has access to on-going project and financial information – yet this information is rarely in found in the public domain.
As a minimum a 'mandatory annual public reporting' obligation should be a requirement of every PFI deal. Key historical data on PFI schemes has already been made available. This should be expanded to include all the contractual performance reporting requirements for the concession – this means information on the service levels, lifecycle, value for money made accessible online for public review and scrutiny.
If it can be done successfully within a highly complex and changing regulatory framework such as the London Stock Exchange then it can be made to work for a PFI scheme.