7 civil servants / Whitehall moles on secondment to the Information Commissioners Office
The UK FOIA blog The work of the Information Commissioner: Govt response to the Justice Cttee contains this alarming quote from the Government:
In the current financial year, additional funding has been complemented by a secondment scheme. Seven civil servants paid by their parent departments are currently working for the Information Commissioner’s Office on the backlog of freedom of information cases”
How can the Information Commissioner’s Office now claim to be seen to remain “independent” from the Whitehall bureaucracy ?
- How can civil servants be trusted to be independent and impartial, when they may have to criticise their own Departments, colleagues and bosses, and could easily come under peer pressure or feel that they might jeapordise their career or promotion prospects if they do so ?
- Will confidential personal data e.g. the real names,postal and email and addresses and telephone numbers of FOIA complainants, submitted to the ICO, find its way back to these Whitehall Departments, via these FOIA complaints backlog “moles” ?
- Will the ICO’s legal advice and preparations for Information Tribunal and High Court FOIA appeal cases, also find its way back to the “other side” i.e. to the Whitehall Departmental or Treasury Solicitor legal teams , via such “moles” ?
The extra money should have been used to employ more ICO staff directly.
We have asked, via the WhatDoTheyKnow.com FOIA request portal, which Whitehall departments now have “moles” on secondment within the ICO , and just what their duties and potential ability to delay FOIA complaints is.
Watching Them, Watching Us
25 April 2009
Saturday 25th April 2009
Dear Sir or Madam,
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please disclose:
1) The list of the “parent departments” of the “seven civil
servants” on secondment to the Information Commissioner’s Office,
as mentioned in the Government’s Response to the House of Commons
Parliamentary Select Committee:
Justice Committee – Fourth Special Report The work of the
Information Commissioner: appointment of a new Commissioner:
Government Response to the Committee’s Third Report of Session
“In the current financial year, additional funding has been
complemented by a secondment scheme. Seven civil servants paid by
their parent departments are currently working for the Information
Commissioner’s Office on the backlog of freedom of information
2) What exactly are the specific duties of these seven civil
servants within the Information Commissioner’s Office ?
3) How can the Information Commissioner’s Office now be seen to
remain independent of Whitehall ?
Please provide the information, ideally by publishing it on your
public world wide website, or alternatively by email.
Ideally this should *not* be in the form of a “copy and paste”
locked Adobe .pdf file, or similar, attachment.
In the unlikely event that this information is not already
available in a standard electronic format, then please explain the
reasons why, when you provide the information in another format.
If you are proposing to make a charge for providing the information
requested, please provide full details in advance, together with an
explanation of any proposed charge.
If you decide to withhold any of the information requested, you
should clearly explain why you have done so in your response, by
reference to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 legislation.
If your decision to withhold is based upon an evaluation of the
Public Interest, for a Qualified Exemption, then you should clearly
explain which public interest(s) you have considered, and why you
have decided that the public interest in maintaining the
Exemption(s) outweighs the public interest in releasing the
If you decide to conduct a Balance of Public Interest evaluation,
you need to estimate any additional time which might be required,
and to inform me of this in your Substantive Reply, within the
mandatory statutory limit of 20 working days for you to respond to
this Freedom of Information Act request.
Under Section 16 the Freedom of Information Act, you have a duty to
provide help and advice, as to how this current request may need to
be modified, if necessary.
I look forward to receiving the information requested as soon as
possible, and in any event, within the statutory 20 working days
from receipt of this email i.e. no later than Tuesday 26th May
Watching Them, Watching Us
Monday 25th May 2009 is a public holiday i.e. not counted as one of the a “20 working days”. according to the FOIA legislation.