Results of an internal investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office have revealed that several government departments are failing on their legal transparency obligations, with one freedom of information request to the Home Office delayed by 1,241 days – more than three years.
The investigation, details of which have been obtained by Scrapbook, was triggered as a result of high levels of complaints to the ICO about failures to answer FOI requests within the required timeframe. The shocking findings showed:
- The MoD failed to answer 35% of requests within the time limit, and had outstanding requests almost two years overdue.
- The Scotland Office had requests more than 200 days over the time limit.
- The Metropolitan Police had outstanding obligations up to 205 days overdue.
These failings are at odds with the coalition’s repeated pledge to be the most transparent government ever. Writing in the Guardian last November, Francis Maude claimed:
“The UK government is now the world’s most open administration, but our ambition stretches far further. We are starting to transform the access British people have to the information that matters to them. It may lead to difficult questions – but more importantly it will lead to better decisions and better government.”
Maude should start this mission with his own staff. At the time the Cabinet Office minister put pen to paper, his own department was also under investigation as one of the worst offenders, failing to answer almost a quarter of requests within the required twenty days.
When it comes to transparency, perhaps Maude can learn something from his Cabinet Office colleague’s bin-related antics in St James’ Park.