Right here, in this open-plan office, Thomson Reuters is in the middle of an extraordinary experiment.
Inside the spacious premises, it is surprising to see how many public bodies from the Royal Police Force to the BBC are recruiting more staff than they need and then having them perform unofficial projects for pay.
We are on this tour of a New Year’s Eve party held at Thomson Reuters in Canary Wharf.
Here, in the middle of the night, a performance is being filmed for a global TV audience of millions in the run-up to Strictly Come Dancing – perhaps some of the audience will soon be working for Thomson Reuters.
Now, this is by no means the first time Thomson Reuters, which employs 17,000 people, has decided to act as a consultant for another public body.
Its links with Westminster are further illustrated by a letter which has been sent to the prime minister. It reveals that Thomson Reuters is being asked to provide help to the Ministry of Justice in persuading the European Commission to re-negotiate a contract to transport drug addicts to Germany.
A similar request has also been sent to Thomson Reuters by Companies House, which is looking for advice on how to improve the efficiency of the administration of wills and probate, and may find that some of its staff are needed for that task too.
The Government Whistleblowers’ Protection and Information Act 2005 (TGPA) requires public bodies to inform employees of their right to complain.
We were able to find no employment history for a man called Johnny Elms who is in charge of fighting crime in the Manchester area, and who is also helping Companies House.
He told us he is a freelancer, although he did say he often uses his skills in both Thomson Reuters and with the police.
He refused to provide any details about the nature of his work – he said he did not want his identity to be revealed.
Nor would he provide any details of his salary, explaining that he had his ‘gig work’ arrangement “protected” and therefore could not be made to reveal it.
It sounds like Johnny Elms has a fair understanding of how the police work. We have repeatedly asked the West Midlands Police to reveal who has been working on its behalf, but so far it has refused.
Meanwhile, Tim Hathaway, who works on Government Procurement, has been part of a team of 30 employed by the Government Procurement Service (GPS). He will no doubt help other public bodies win lucrative contracts when they come up for renewal, but not unless his personal identity is disclosed.
Tim Hathaway has been giving personal details to companies to allow them to tender for government work
We have asked the world’s biggest company by revenue, Walmart, what the part it plays in this dirty “gig work” racket and have not yet received a response.
At the moment the commercial aspects of the government contracting process are kept secret. We think it is time that changed.
And we think that access to the lives of these secretive corporate bodies should be curtailed.
After all, with the press and the public waiting with bated breath for the big tax returns of 2017 to be published next year, they will want to know if Thomson Reuters, for example, is doing its tax affairs.
Or, whether Companies House staff are being tasked with delivering legal services on a contract basis to corporations that also pay them in tax credits.