DWP Monitoring

Simon Jones made this Freedom of Information request to Information Commissioner's Office

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Information Commissioner’s Office,

I note from your website that you monitored the Department for Work and Pensions for compliance (or lack thereof) to the Freedom of Information Act in the period 1 October 2010 to 31 December 2010, and again in the period from 1 January 2013 to 31 March 2013. I am not sure whether the Department was monitored between these dates as your website only lists these two.

Please can you provide me with the following information in respect of these two periods where you were monitoring the Department (and in respect of any other periods between these dates when the Department was monitored):

1. Any information you have recorded or collated in respect of DWP's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

2. Any communications sent to DWP together with any responses received from them in connection with these monitoring activities, in particular any reports to DWP after the monitoring periods and any responses to these from DWP.

In addition, (if not already covered by the above) please can you provide me with details of any improvement actions suggested or imposed on DWP after the 2010 monitoring, and any information you hold on whether/how these were tracked.

Yours faithfully,

Simon Jones

Information Commissioner's Office

PROTECT

 

9th May 2013

 

Case Reference Number IRQ0496754

 

Dear Mr Jones

Thank you for your email of 7 May 2013 in which you have made a request
for information to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
 
Your request is being dealt with in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.  We will respond promptly, and no later than 5 June
2013 which is 20 working days from the day after we received your request.
 
Should you wish to reply to this email, please be careful not to amend the
information in the ‘subject’ field. This will ensure that the information
is added directly to your case. However, please be aware that this is an
automated process; the information will not be read by a member of our
staff until your case is allocated to a request handler.
 

Yours sincerely

Joanne Crowley
Lead Information Governance Officer

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Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.org.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

4 Attachments

PROTECT

 

5 June 2013

 

Case Reference Number IRQ0496754

 

Dear Mr Jones
 
I am writing further to our 9 May acknowledgement of your 7 May request
for information. As you know, we are dealing with your request as a
request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
We are now in a position to provide our response.
 
You requested:
 
“I note from your website that you monitored the Department for Work and
Pensions for compliance (or lack thereof) to the Freedom of Information
Act in the period 1 October 2010 to 31 December 2010, and again in the
period from 1 January 2013 to 31 March 2013. I am not sure whether the
Department was monitored between these dates as your website only lists
these two.
 
Please can you provide me with the following information in respect of
these two periods where you were monitoring the Department (and in respect
of any other periods between these dates when the Department was
monitored):

1. Any information you have recorded or collated in respect of DWP's
compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

2. Any communications sent to DWP together with any responses received
from them in connection with these monitoring activities, in particular
any reports to DWP after the monitoring periods and any responses to these
from DWP.

In addition, (if not already covered by the above) please can you provide
me with details of any improvement actions suggested or imposed on DWP
after the 2010 monitoring, and any information you hold on whether/how
these were tracked.”
 
Information held
 
We hold information relating to the period of monitoring which commenced
in January 2013. Please understand, however, that this case is still open,
and our activity is ongoing. For this reason, we are not able to disclose
as much information as we could if the matter had been concluded.
 
At the time we received your request, we had received the DWP’s response
to our monitoring in relation to January and February 2013, but not the
response for March. (This is normal, clearly a request received on 30
March would not be outside the statutory timescale for response until 4
April and, bearing in mind that our monitoring also relates to the conduct
of internal reviews, any response to our monitoring will necessarily be
submitted some time after the statutory deadline has elapsed). I
understand the DWP’s response for March 2013 was due on 30 May (and indeed
was received on that date) and is therefore outside the scope of your
request because it was not information held at the time your request was
received.
 
We are disclosing information relating to the initial stages of the
monitoring process, namely a short analysis of the DWP timeliness which
led to the decision to monitor its compliance, and our initial
correspondence with the DWP about the monitoring, but the submissions
received from the DWP as part of the monitoring process are refused under
the provisions of section 31 of FOIA (which relates to law enforcement).
 
For the sake or completeness, I would like to explain that while the March
2013 submissions may be outside the formal scope of the request, we have
taken them into account in our refusal of your request under s31 and you
should consider them similarly refused on the same grounds. I will explain
the application of section 31 in more detail later in this notice.
 
Information not held
 
As the 2013 monitoring has not yet concluded, no ‘reports to DWP after the
monitoring periods and any responses to these from DWP’ are held as we
have not yet responded to the DWP’s final submissions for March 2013, and
clearly there can be no reply in turn from DWP.
 
In respect of the earlier period of monitoring, no information is held. We
have conducted searches of our casework records and the case which refers
to the 2010 monitoring period has been deleted. This is in line with our
retention policy - casework records are retained for two years and the
case which relates to the earlier period of monitoring (Oct-Dec 2010) has
been deleted. Consequently, no information described in your request is
held in respect of the 2010 monitoring.
 
For the avoidance of doubt, I can also confirm that no monitoring of DWP
has taken place in the time between the two periods you refer to in your
request.
 
Information withheld
 
The DWP submissions (completed monitoring spreadsheets and covering
letters) are being withheld under the provisions of section 31 of FOIA and
specifically, the exemption at sections 31(g) and 31(2)(a) and (c) of the
FOIA. We have come to the view that the submissions should be withheld
under this exemption. 
 
The exemption at section 31(1)(g) of the FOIA refers to circumstances
where the disclosure of information “would, or would be likely to,
prejudice – … the exercise by any public authority of its functions for
any of the purposes specified in subsection (2).” 
 
The purposes referred to in sections 31(2)(a) and (c) are –
 
“(a) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply
with the law” and
 “(c) the purpose of ascertaining whether circumstances which would
justify regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise
…”     
 
Clearly, these purposes apply when the Information Commissioner is
considering whether or not a public authority has properly responded to a
request made under the FOIA.
 
However, this exemption is not absolute. When considering whether to apply
it in response to a request for information, there is a ‘public interest
test’. That is, we must consider whether the public interest favours
withholding or disclosing the information.   
 
In this case the public interest factors in disclosing the letter are – 

* increased transparency in the way in which the DWP has responded to
the ICO’s monitoring;
* increased transparency in the state of the DWP’s compliance with the
statutory and advisory timescales for response under FOIA;
* increased transparency in the way in which the ICO conducts its
investigations.

 The factors in withholding the submissions are –
 

* the public interest in maintaining public authorities’ trust and
confidence that their replies to the ICO’s enquiries will be afforded
an appropriate level of confidentiality while investigations and
monitoring are continuing;
* the public interest in public authorities being open and honest in
their correspondence with the ICO about the way they have handled FOI
requests, without fear that their responses will be made public
prematurely (or, as appropriate, at all);
* the public interest in maintaining the ICO’s ability to conduct an
investigation into FOI compliance as it thinks fit, without undue
external influence.

Having considered all of these factors we have taken the decision that the
public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public
interest in disclosing it. I am sorry, therefore, that in this instance we
are unable to provide you with all the information that you have
requested. This is because the investigation is still ongoing, no firm
conclusions have yet been reached and the regulatory process has not
concluded.
 
We consider that the public interest in permitting the ICO and the public
authority a ‘safe space’ in which to undertake regulatory action,
outweighs the public interest in transparency, because the public interest
in transparency can be met at a later date, once the matter has been
concluded. To disclose information while the process is still ongoing
would be to risk undue external interference, pressure, comment or other
influence to the process. This could inhibit the free flow of information,
or could make other public authorities, subject to monitoring in future,
more guarded in the extent of their co-operation with the ICO’s
monitoring.
 
I hope you will recognise that, while the monitoring process is ongoing,
the public interest factors in conducting this business between the ICO
and the monitored public authority without undue external influence,
carries significant weight. The public interest in transparency is still
strong, but the ability of the ICO to undertake its regulatory activities
as its sees fit, and the public interest in encouraging candour and
co-operation from the monitored public authority outweighs that public
interest at the material time.
 
Once the monitoring exercise is ended and the ICO has reached its
conclusions and any necessary action has been taken, then the balance of
that public interest will change, and it is much more likely that the
balance of the public interest will at that point favour disclosure. I
would therefore advise you to wait for a short period, until the
monitoring exercise with the DWP is concluded, and then resubmit your
request. I hope this is helpful to you.
 
I realise that this may be disappointing, but I trust you will recognise
the reasons why we have reached the conclusion above and that you can
resubmit your request in a short time, when it is likely that the matter
has been concluded and the balance of the public interest may favour
disclosure.
 
Personal data
 
A small amount of information has been redacted from one document in the
disclosed correspondence. I am afraid that I am unable to provide you with
that information because it relates to an individual. This is the contact
details for the person the ICO has been in contact with at the DWP and,
while they have given their permission for their name to be disclosed,
they have asked that their contact details (eg email address, telephone
numbers) are not disclosed. The information which is held relates directly
to those individuals and, as a result, in data protection terms it
comprises their ‘personal data’. 
 
Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) allows a
public authority to withhold information from a response to a request
under the FOIA when the information requested is personal data relating to
someone other than the requestor, and its disclosure would contravene one
of the Data Protection principles.
 
We consider that when individuals are in contact with the ICO they do not
anticipate or expect their details to be disclosed to anyone else purely
as a result of the fact that they have dealt with the ICO. Therefore, we
consider that such a disclosure would be unfair and in breach of the first
Data Protection principle which states that – “Personal data shall be
processed fairly and lawfully …”
 
As a result we are not in a position to provide you with that information
and it has been redacted from the documents disclosed.
 
This concludes our response to your request. If you are dissatisfied with
the response you have received and wish to request a review of our
decision or make a complaint about how your request has been handled you
should write to the Information Governance Department at the address below
or e-mail [1][email address]
 
Your request for internal review should be submitted to us within 40
working days of receipt by you of this response. Any such request received
after this time will only be considered at the discretion of the
Commissioner.
 
If having exhausted the review process you are not content that your
request or review has been dealt with correctly, you have a further right
of appeal to this office in our capacity as the statutory complaint
handler under the legislation. To make such an application, please write
to the First Contact Team, at the address below or visit the ‘Complaints’
section of our website to make a Freedom of Information Act or
Environmental Information Regulations complaint online.
 
A copy of our review procedure is available [2]here.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Steven Dickinson                 Lead Information Governance Officer
 
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF.
T. 01625 545676 F. 01625 524510 [3]www.ico.org.uk
 
 

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Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.org.uk

References

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