Transparency. What transparency?

Despite wide-reaching open government pledges, civil servants are still dragging their heels over the release of salary details. Is David Cameron’s desire for openness being ignored?

The government kicked off its open data drive by releasing the salaries of 171 top civil servants, all of whom earn more than £150,000.

But it seems the appetite for disclosure goes no further than that.Asking questions

Four months ago the Bureau made Freedom of Information requests to each of the 21 central government departments asking for a list of all staff earning more than £100,000.

To date, however, only four departments have fully answered our FOI requests, despite the strict 20-day deadline laid down by the Act.

Naming and shaming

Seven departments including the Cabinet Office, the body spearheading the new open government initiative, have still not provided any information.

The Ministry of Justice spent three months processing the request, only to decide it is too big to process within the Act’s cost limits.

The Ministry of Defence, Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Environment and Climate Change and Vince Cable’s Department for Business and Innovation are still yet to respond.

Bonuses not included

Many other departments have provided basic salary details, but have refused to disclose details about bonuses paid out to staff.

Only four departments have given us a full disclosure, reticence which calls into question the effectiveness of the coalition’s move for transparency.

Even the list of top paid civil servants released earlier this month did not include performance related pay or pension contributions, which are notoriously high for public sector workers.

Keeping mum

A spokesman for the Cabinet office said: “Performance related pay is not guaranteed so we can’t publish it. There are no plans to publish the list of detailed individual payments retrospectively.”

Bonuses have become a core component of public sector pay, especially at a senior level.

Staff can receive a performance related bonus of up to £15,000 a year. Combined with the government’s pension contributions, these none disclosed extras push pay packages up significantly – but the government is loath to tell us about any of these lucrative extras.

The age of transparency, it seems, applies only if it is on the government’s own terms.