Those of you who follow US politics will be familiar with the mantra of the Bush administration when any of the President's advisers are asked to testify before Congress about what bare faced lie or illegal act they have been responsible for lately.
"Revealing what was said between the President and his advisors would restrict their ability to give impartial advice" or something similar. Such words have been said dozens, if not hundreds of times and the results are clear to see for all of us. Our own Government does much the same thing on a regular basis.
Arts Council England (ACE) made exactly the same statement, almost, when it was asked to give up evaluation reports on the National Dance Agency Network in England.
Who said what and to whom is crucial in finding out whether or not a particular organisation is corrupt, incompetent or just plain stupid. Getting at the truth can also illustrate that an organisation is actually working the way it should and is trying its very hardest to do the right thing.
Just what kind of back and forth ACE is hiding would be very difficult to speculate on. After all, we're talking about National Dance Agencies here, not the country's security infrastructure or the plans for a nuclear submarine.
When you go into a bank you should expect and receive absolute privacy from prying eyes about your own finances. When you are dealing with ACE however you are using public money and operating organisations that are supposed to be serving the public good. They are not commercial, for profit companies and life and death is not an issue.
More often than not, refusing to hand over information, such as evaluation reports, happens because those reports will reveal something embarrassing, humiliating or just plain stupid that has gone on within that organisation.
It is likely the evaluation reports would reveal some elements of certain NDA's to be dysfunctional, inefficient or wasteful. We can guarantee you that somebody, somewhere would probably be in for some major league discomfort if the truth ever got out.
Either ACE would be exposed as not being very good at its job (likely) or the NDA's would be exposed as not being very good at their job (almost as likely).
It is also possible that these reports would illustrate some aspects of NDA's that work rather well but we probably already know what those bits are. Just look at any NDA website for a mention of a number with three or more figures in it and you will have their positive news for the week.
Public organsations that keep secrets do not achieve great things (ask President Bush or Tony Blair, both universally derided and despised). If you make mistakes then own up to them, take your licks and move on. Pretending nothing is wrong and skulking around in the shadows is nothing but trouble and usually not for the people doing the skulking!