Education and pensions chiefs miss deadline on eight out of ten FOI requests

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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EDUCATION and pensions chiefs have failed to respond on time to more than eight out of ten Freedom of Information requests, the Information Commisioner’s Office has revealed.

The ICO said that both the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions will be monitored for three months after missing the target of responding to 85% of FOI requests within 20 working days.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “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.”

The FOI Act gives a person the right to ask any public sector organisation for all the recorded information they have on any subject. Requests must be responded to within 20 working days of receipt.

The ICO monitors organisations to make sure that they adhere to the FOI Act, and contacts authorities if it has received six or more complaints concerning a delay within a six-month period.

Some 37,313 information requests were made to central Government offices in the first three quarters of 2012, with many more made to local councils, NHS bodies, police forces and other public authorities.

In 2012, requests revealed that Roald Dahl and Lucian Freud both turned down the Queen’s honours, that 900 police officers have criminal records and there are 43,586,400 fake pound coins in circulation.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We take our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act very seriously and make every effort to respond within the 20 working day deadline.

“The number of requests for information received by the department has more than doubled in the space of three years.

“However, we are clear that delays are unacceptable and are co-operating fully with the Information Commissioner’s Office to improve our performance.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We take our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act very seriously and are taking steps to improve performance.

“The number of requests for information received by the DWP has trebled over the last four years, from around 1,500 in 2008 to a predicted 4,700 in 2012.

“This means the DWP now receives more FoI requests than any other central Government department, which has clearly presented a challenge for the Department.”