MoJ under watchdog scrutiny over FoI delays

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is probing the Ministry of Justice following concerns that the department is not responding to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests quickly enough.

It will review its performance in relation to requests received between 1 September and 30 November 2015 after the statutory time limit of 20 working days was breached in a “significant” number of cases.

The latest quarterly FoI statistics show that the department is “well below” the 85% threshold, which prompted the formal monitoring.

Graham Smith, the ICO’s deputy commissioner and director of FoI, said: “Transparency is a cornerstone of a modern democracy and public authorities must respect people’s rights of access to information.

“We hope the Ministry of Justice uses this monitoring period to bring about significant improvements in this aspect of its service to the public. Statutory time limits are not optional.”

The FoI Act allows anyone to access information held by public bodies if it does not present public interest or national security implications, or fall foul of a number of technical exemptions.

Other public bodies to have come under ICO scrutiny following unacceptable FoI performance include the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council, Cumbria County Council, Nottingham City Council and Salford City Council, all of which have now been taken off formal monitoring following sustained improvements.

The performance of the Metropolitan Police Service “remains a concern” to the watchdog, but it expects improvements following the recent centralisation of its FoI handling function.


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