The Information Commissioner’s Office has announced that four public authorities will be monitored for three months in the new year over concerns about the timeliness of their responses to Freedom of Information requests. The four are: the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in Northern Ireland and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.
The authorities were selected as they failed to respond to 85% of FOI requests within the time limit of 20 working days or had exceeded the time limit by a significant margin on numerous occasions.
The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:
“We will monitor the authorities named today for three months, and may take further action after this monitoring period has expired if we don’t see the necessary improvements in each authorities’ standard of compliance. It is particularly disappointing to see that the advances previously made by the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions, and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council – which were introduced following concerns after previous rounds of monitoring – have not been continued.
“This is not good enough and we expect these authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that they are meeting their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. We will provide support and advice where we can, but reserve the right to take further action if they fail to step up to the mark.”
Three of the four authorities on the latest list have been monitored for delays by the ICO before. The Department of Work and Pensions and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council were monitored by the ICO between 1 October and 31 December 2010. The Department for Education was monitored between 1 April to 30 June 2011. According to the latest statistics, several other government departments are also failing to respond to at least 85% of requests in 20 working days (see earlier post).