Government told to improve their handling of Freedom of Information requests

The Scottish Government’s handling of freedom of information requests has been criticised in a new report.

Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry found “unjustifiable, significant delays” in a number of cases. The report found that:

  • It is an important principle of FOI law that, in most cases, it should not matter who asks for information. The practice of referring requests for clearance by Ministers simply because they come from journalists, MSPs and researchers is inconsistent with that principle.
  • The Scottish Government’s FOI policies and procedures are not clear enough about the role of special advisers in responding to FOI requests.
  • The Scottish Government takes longer to respond to journalists’ FOI requests than other requests, but in only one case did the Commissioner find evidence that delay was deliberate.
  • The Scottish Government’s FOI practice has improved significantly over the last year, following the Commissioner’s first intervention: average response times to all requests, including journalists’ requests have reduced.

The Commissioner makes seven recommendations for further specific improvements to: clearance procedures; quality assurance of FOI responses; training; case handling and case records management; monitoring FOI requests and review procedures.

The government has been given three months to provide an action plan on how it will improve its practices. The Scottish Government stated that it was “happy to accept his recommendations in full to support our continued improvement”.

You can read the full report here: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/AboutSIC/WhatWeDo/Intervention201702016ScottishGovernment.aspx

 

 

Image credit: Mark Deckers, Flickr