The Center for Global Development’s Working Group on Commercial
looking at the question of when is it legitimate to redact commercially
sensitive information from public contracts.
The working group, chaired by Caroline Anstey and including experts from
government, private sector and civil society and has come up with a short
set of principles on commercial confidentiality in open contracts:
- Full contract publication should be the norm—redaction should be
the exception, supported by a public interest justification.
- Government contracting processes should be designed for
- There should be an enforcement system for ensuring that contracts
and contract information is in fact disclosed in practice and in a usable
- Where there is not an up-front requirement for full publication,
any redaction for commercial sensitivity should be based on a robust
application of the public interest test.
- The “public interest test” should take into account the economic
benefits of the sharing of commercial information, such as more competitive
public contracting, as well as the broader case for the public’s right to
- It is particularly important that the pieces of information needed
to judge value for money are disclosed.
- Governments should issue clear guidance to public entities,
agencies and firms on the issue of when contract information may be
exempted from publication on the basis of commercial sensitivity to set
clear expectations and reduce uncertainty.
- When a case-by-case redaction approach is used, only the
contracting party that claims potential direct financial harm from a
specific release of information should be able to request redaction of
- When a case-by-case redaction approach is used, there should be a
clear process and time limits for determining what is redacted in
individual contracts, why, for how long, and with what appeals process.
- Redaction on the grounds of commercial confidentiality should be
grounds for increased scrutiny through other oversight mechanisms.
(longer text in the link to the draft set of principles
It would be great to get feedback from the FOIA activist community …
send me an email or fill in the survey
With best wishes
Visiting Fellow, Centre for Global Development
Phone: +44 (0)1727 833 200
Mobile: +44 (0) 7966676465
*Beyond the big numbers: new paper *- Tax and Development Frontiers of
Research and Action