The union representing staff at Land Registry has accused the government of using planned privatisation to evade new controls on IT procurement.
Responding to a consultation on proposals to transform the bulk of Land Registry into a 'service delivery company', with possible private shareholders, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said it has evidence that the government "does not want the procurement associated with Land Registry's new Business Strategy to be subjected to 'fair procurement' controls (i.e. controls designed to assist smaller businesses in the face of large suppliers)."
It describes any attempt to avoid procurement controls brought in to assist small and medium sized businesses as "astonishing".
The union also accused the government of keeping secret plans for radical changes in Land Registry's services. It demanded that the government publish its plan for 'significant changes in the way land registration is delivered'. This is believed to involve much greater use of digital channels such as the self-service property index.
Answering a question in parliament, the business secretary Vince Cable said that as the changes would be affected by the privatisation consultation 'it would be misleading to provide further details'.
The PCS said that, in the absence of information on planned changes the consultation is flawed and it will be impossible for the public and businesses to reach an informed view.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka accused ministers of 'withholding key information and denying the public and businesses the chance to reach an informed view'.
In its submission to the consultation, the union says the government has failed to say why a new operating model is needed. It notes the Land Registry has a customer satisfaction rating of 98% and operates at no cost to the taxpayer.
'Far from being the most transparent ever, this looks more like smoke and mirrors from a government preparing to gift a trusted 150-year-old institution to a private company,' Serwotka said.
Earlier this month, Land Registry demonstrated its plans for digital transformation at a Digital Transformation Discovery Day.