A watchdog has taken action against two Government departments for “persistent failures” to respond to Freedom of Information requests on time.
he Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) handed its first enforcement notice in seven years to the Department for International Trade (DIT).
The department was late answering more than half of requests from January to March and had the worst response figures in central government.
Meanwhile, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has been told how it should improve its performance, after it “consistently failed to respond to a significant number of the information access requests received within the statutory time limit”.
The ICO – the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law – said the move comes under its renewed approach to regulating the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The UK’s information commissioner warned public authorities the office will be making use of its powers under the Act “to drive good practice and compliance”.
I advise public authorities to take note and learn lessons from the action we have taken today, as we will be making greater use of our powers under the Act to drive good practice and complianceJohn Edwards
John Edwards said: “For the first time in seven years, the ICO has issued a Freedom of Information enforcement notice, which clearly marks the start of our new approach to regulating the Act.
“Accountability and transparency in the work of public authorities is fundamental to democracy and it is the ICO’s role to ensure that people’s right to access information is protected.
“I advise public authorities to take note and learn lessons from the action we have taken today, as we will be making greater use of our powers under the Act to drive good practice and compliance.”
Statistics showed that the DIT’s response times declined in 2021 despite no significant increase in requests or known resource issues at the department, the ICO said.
The regulator said the delays were “simply due to internal process failings, rather than more significant problems”.
Video of the Day
The department has been told it must respond to any outstanding requests older than 20 working days within 35 calendar days of the enforcement notice.
It should also publish an action plan formalising measures to mitigate any future delays.
Failure to comply with the notice could lead to the department being found in contempt of court, it has been warned.
The BEIS has had a 55% increase in requests since 2020, but the ICO found the department’s internal procedures were the cause of many responses being delayed, as well as the volume increases.
The ICO said that due to mitigations highlighted by the BEIS and the positive engagement it had with the watchdog, it was issued with a practice recommendation rather than an enforcement notice.
While the regulator said a practice recommendation is not enforceable, an enforcement notice could be issued if performance does not improve.
Denial of responsibility! planetcirculate is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.