Government transparency and accountability during Covid 19: The data underpinning decisions Contents

Summary

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.

Over the last year, the Government has asked the people to accept unprecedented restrictions on their freedoms, and to accept the many consequences of those restrictions. Individuals have been separated from their families, many have been unable to work, and weddings, religious ceremonies and other life events have been cancelled. Many of the freedoms we take for granted have been curtailed. This has come at enormous cost to both the country and individuals, and many people have suffered hardship both financially and in terms of their well-being and mental health. Not least, it goes without saying that many people have made these sacrifices while mourning loved ones lost to this pandemic. For these reasons, there is a moral imperative on Government to clearly justify each of their decisions. Part of that is making the data that is driving the response, and its interpretation, available so people can understand why they are being asked to make such sacrifices.

The Government needs the public to keep working with them, changing their behaviours and their lifestyles in ways which are often extremely difficult. The Government must build trust and co-operation by being open and transparent about the data. Data transparency is not just a moral issue, it is integral to the success of the response to this pandemic. Transparency builds trust, and trust aids compliance with rules.

The Committee is keen to acknowledge that the Government has had to make complex and difficult decisions, often quickly, on the basis of emerging information. More often than not, there is no obviously correct response but rather a range of possible actions that could have different outcomes for, amongst other things, public health, the economy, and the education of children. These outcomes are not in conflict with each other, as they are often presented, but are closely linked.

This report is not a critique of whether the Government made the right or wrong decisions at various points in this pandemic. Instead it considers whether those decisions were transparent and whether the data underpinning them was available for Parliament and the public to hold the Government to account.

In summary, we conclude that:




Published: 15 March 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement