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United Kingdom

Grants Data (UK0068)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United Kingdom – Third National Action Plan 2016-18

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Cabinet Office

Support Institution(s): All grant giving government departments; 360Giving,NCVO, The Open Data Institute

Policy Areas

Access to Information, E-Government, Fiscal Openness, Open Data, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: United Kingdom End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, United Kingdom Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Objective: Increased release of information about government grant making as open, machinereadable data.

Status quo: The government’s Grant Register was first published in January 2015 showing detail on government grants schemes for the 2013-14 financial year. The latest version of the register was published in February 2016 with information for the 2014-15 financial year. Collected by the Grants Efficiency Programme in Cabinet Office, the register includes the value of grant schemes and the type and number of recipients. While it is not fully comprehensive, and some of the information is estimated, the Grants Register provides a useful overview of the majority of government grants. The recently launched Government Grants Information System (GGIS) has been developed to enable recording of grant information across government in a simple, standardised and scalable way. It improves transparency and provides insight into grant spend enabling departments to manage grants efficiently and effectively, while actively reducing the risk of fraud. Access to the GGIS is limited to grant giving departments, and associated arms length bodies that give out grants on behalf of government. It is not open to the public.

Ambition: At present, we are concentrating on collecting and sharing the scheme and award level data internally across government via the GGIS and working with departments to improve the quality and quantity of that data. Going forward, and in line with the transparency agenda, we plan to make that data available publically via the Grants Register to improve availability of information. The quantity and the type of data provided will be dependent on agreements with the data owners, ie government departments.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

6. Grants data

Commitment Text: Government plans to collect more granular data on grant making. This will be in line with the 360 Giving Standard. In addition, the Grants Efficiency Programme in the Cabinet Office will publish more granular level data on Government Grants Expenditure at a scheme and award level. The quantity and type of data provided publicly will be determined following consultation and agreement with the data providers.

Objective: Increased release of information about government grant making as open, machine-readable data.

Status quo: The government's Grant Register was first published in January 2015 showing detail on government grants schemes for the 2013-14 financial year. The latest version of the register was published in February 2016 with information for the 2014-15 financial year. Collected by the Grants Efficiency Programme in Cabinet Office, the register includes the value of grant schemes and the type and number of recipients. While it is not fully comprehensive, and some of the information is estimated, the Grants Register provides a useful overview of the majority of government grants.

The recently launched Government Grants Information System (GGIS) has been developed to enable recording of grant information across government in a simple, standardised and scalable way. It improves transparency and provides insight into grant spend enabling departments to manage grants efficiently and effectively, while actively reducing the risk of fraud.

Access to the GGIS is limited to grant giving departments, and associated arm's length bodies that give out grants on behalf of government. It is not open to the public.

Ambition: At present, we are concentrating on collecting and sharing the scheme and award level data internally across government via the GGIS and working with departments to improve the quality and quantity of that data.

Going forward, and in line with the transparency agenda, we plan to make that data available publicly via the Grants Register to improve availability of information. The quantity and the type of data provided will be dependent on agreements with the data owners, i.e. government departments.

Milestones

1. Collate granular level data on grant schemes and grant awards on the GGIS (New May 2016- March 2017)

2. Publish more granular data sourced from the GGIS on grant schemes and grant awards (the quantity and the type of data provided will be dependent on agreements with the data owners, i.e. government departments) (May 2017 March 2018)

Responsible institution: Cabinet Office

Supporting institutions: All grant giving departments, 360Giving, NCVO, The Open Data Institute

Start date: May 2016

End date: March 2018

Commitment Aim:

The UK government began to open up its data around grant payments when it first published its grants register in 2015, a list of schemes involving grants run by government.[Note 49: Gov.uk, ‘Transparency data: Government grants register', https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-grants-register ] The new commitment aims to publish data at a more granular level. It is based on the 360Giving Standard, which aims to offer an open, simple and comprehensive way of publishing grants data.[Note 50: 360Giving, ‘The 360Giving Standard', http://standard.threesixtygiving.org/en/latest/# ] The commitment was wide ranging and there was some ambiguity in the language around exactly what would be published, and which departments would do it.

Status

Midterm: Limited

According to the government's July 2017 update, officials were working to “upload more granular level data to the GGIS, and to close any gaps which exist between scheme and award level data.”[Note 51: Cabinet Office, Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18:July 2017 Commitment Progress Updates (commitment update for July 2017) pre-publication passed to author. ] Officials have also held discussions and gathered data with stakeholders. CSOs praised the collaboration that took place and stressed the importance of individual relations between officials and civil society.[Note 52: Interview with Rachel Rank, 360Giving, 13 August 2017.] Departments were due to publish data in September 2017 and the government was on course to begin publishing data on the Government Grants Information System (GGIS). In October 2017, the Department of Transport and Department of Justice both published data under the 360Giving Standard.[Note 53: Cabinet Office (2017), ‘Press release: Government releases £100bn of grant data in push for greater efficiency and transparency', https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-releases-100bn-of-grant-data-in-push-for-greater-efficiency-and-transparency ]

Some departments have struggled, but CSOs hoped that the ‘big grant givers'' release of data (the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Transport) could encourage others.[Note 54: Interview with Rachel Rank, 360Giving, August 2017.]

End of Term: Substantial

This commitment was substantially completed with the release of data at scheme level by all departments, and complete publication under the 360 standards by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Transport in 2017 described above. The final government update reported that other departments were also pushing forward with an ‘increase [in] their awards level data'. As of April 2018, they were ‘planning to publish the grants data in the autumn. However, they will not know whether individual departments are in a position to approve the publication of their awards data until later this year.' It also spoke of a ‘close, positive relationship between 360Giving and Government leads, which we should strive to replicate in other areas.[Note 55: UK government (2018), 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan: April 2018 Commitment Progress Updates, https://www.opengovernment.org.uk/resource/2016-18-open-government-action-plan-april-2018-commitment-progress-updates/]

However, there was disagreement over the meaning of the commitment. 360Giving did not agree with the assessment that the commitment was substantially completed, as only data for two out of 17 central departments had used the 360Giving Standard format.[Note 56: Response to consultation by Rachel Rank 360Giving.]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

As CSOs acknowledged, the commitment was wide ranging and would involve work, co-ordination and action across all government departments. It could, however, ‘theoretically...revolutionise our understanding of how much the charity sector gets from government'.[Note 57: Kirsty Weakley (2018), ‘How useful is the government's latest grants register', https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/kirsty-weakley-how-useful-is-the-government-s-latest-grants-register.html#sthash.81XtXP6m.dpuf ] In terms of access to information, the commitment has gone some way to opening up a vital area of government spending. Before the commitment, data in this area was inconsistent and patchy. It has clearly ‘increased' the amount of data available, at a new level (award level) and, because of the 360 standards, in a way that is consistent across the departments. The commitment will continue outside of the implementation cycle, with more data due to be published in late 2018.

Concerns remain about the quality and what the data tells us. One piece of analysis argued that it was not ‘real transparency” and the data at present did not allow users to know what was happening with grant spending. Some entities have begun reporting in greater detail, but others have not. Compliance is inconsistent. In some ways, the data generated “additional confusion.” The assessment argues that the commitment acted as a sort of ‘half-way house...there is an agreed standard and format across government. If the 360Giving format is adopted properly it would make government grant-making truly transparent and easier to interrogate.”[Note 58: Ibid.]

Carried Forward?

The UK government's consultation on the national action plan for Open Government 2018-2020 proposed a further commitment around grants data to the transparency of government grant funding for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years. The plan is to have a continued process of release, as well as a co-ordination event to bring together important stakeholders to discuss new approaches.[Note 59: UK Government (2018), Consultation draft of the national action plan for Open Government 2018 – 2020, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XGUs6X8EHSOm00U-rX2_8cAoq7MnDsBjnetQeW0vnzA/edit#heading=h.y5i6179pcs8d ]


Commitments

Open Government Partnership