Govt Decision Making and Accountability During COVID19

Posted on 17th March, 2021


Government transparency and accountability during COVID19: The data underpinning decisions

House of Commons Committee Report - 15 March 2021


"This report asks the fundamental question of whether Parliament and the public can hold the Government to account for its decisions. It concerns data, as that has driven the response to the pandemic, but the core messages could be applied to many aspects of the functions of government ..."


"The chain of command

83. Throughout the inquiry, this Committee has struggled to establish who the Government sees as accountable for the data underpinning decisions on Covid 19. Clear accountability for decision making is absolutely integral to our democracy and the system should be quite simple: Departments and their Permanent Secretaries are responsible for advising the Government, and Ministers are accountable to Parliament for decisions based on that advice."

In summary, it concludes that:

• "… communication has not always been transparent enough, and accountabilities have been unclear.


• "Government communications must focus on informing the public openly and honestly … At various points throughout the pandemic, data has been communicated with the apparent intention of creating a more favourable view of the Government —or even to provoke anxiety rather than help people understand risk. This is not acceptable.


• "Where Ministers quote statistics, the underlying data must be published and hyperlinks must be provided from Ministerial statements to the data, so that is easy for journalists and members of the public to find. ...


• "Ministerial accountability for ensuring decisions are underpinned by data has not been clear. ...The Government must make a clear statement of accountabilities before the renewal of the Coronavirus Act, [this month] and the Minister for the Cabinet Office must respond to this report, clearly outlining his understanding of his own responsibilities.


• "... the Government must share all available data in as much detail as possible with local officials, ideally to patient level. In addition, the Department of Health and Social Care should undertake an urgent review of health data systems.


•" Local lockdown and tiering decisions were not transparent enough and this led to confusion and mistrust. The data underpinning the decision to put some areas under greater restrictions than others has not been clear enough, and there were no data thresholds aligned to the indicators for tiering decisions. The Government must publish thresholds for the roadmap to avoid such confusion when decisions to move between steps are made.


• "The leisure and hospitality sectors had not seen the data underpinning the decisions to put restrictions on their businesses. The Government should publish the data that underpins the restrictions that will remain in place on businesses at each step of roadmap as a matter of urgency." (Read page 43 - Decisions affecting businesses )

NB:Last year the Coronavirus Memorandum (26MAR20) stated:

  • Para 12.1 "An Impact Assessment has not been prepared for this instrument ... however, Office of National Statistics data indicates that these closures will affect 13.1% of the UK’s business units.
  • Para 13.1 "The legislation applies to activities that are undertaken by small businesses."


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