Agencies should consider the implications of the Freedom of Information act when signing up to Government rosters
The IPA has been dealing with the Crown Commercial Service on their Campaign Solutions and Communication Services frameworks through which they will be inviting agencies to apply for positions on the Government’s roster later this year.
One issue I have raised with the CCS concerns freedom of information requests. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) governs information requests made of public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (In Scotland, the equivalent Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 applies and is similar.)
The purpose of the FOIA is to make government more transparent. The public – both individuals and companies - have the right to ask public authorities – including government departments, local authorities, educational institutions and other public bodies - whether they hold certain information and, if they do, to be given that information.
The public are entitled to ask to see any information held by the relevant public authority – even if provided to that public authority by a third party - and it must be disclosed unless an exemption applies. There are several exemptions, including in respect of confidential information and trade secret information, but relying on these is very difficult. The intention of the law is for information to be disclosed if requested: it favours the person/company asking to see that information, rather than the public authority (or third party which has provided the information to it) hoping to protect it.
Agencies should, therefore, be aware that information they provide to public authorities, for example, when applying for inclusion on government frameworks or pitching for public authority client business, is likely to be disclosed if requested via an FOI request.
Last updated 16/06/2016