Information about your dealings with Stonewall [Extraneous material removed]

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Wales Audit Office should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Wales Audit Office,

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). Please provide any information that you hold answering to any of the following descriptions:

1. Any application you made in 2019 or 2020 to be a “Stonewall Diversity Champion” or to be included on Stonewall’s “Workplace Equality Index,” including any attachments or appendices to those applications. Please redact personal details if necessary.

2. Any feedback you received in 2019 or 2020 from Stonewall in relation to either application or programme.

3. Any other communication you have received from Stonewall in 2019 or 2020 unless privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure (but if you claim privilege or exemption in relation to any material, please say in broad terms what the material is and the basis on which you claim to be entitled to withhold it).

4. Full details of any equality impact assessment you carried out connected with any of these applications (including any equality impact assessment carried out prior to an earlier application of the same kind, if no further assessment was done).

5. Details of the total amount of money you paid to Stonewall (i) in 2019; (ii) in 2020, whether or not as payment for goods or services.

6. Whether you intend to continue your membership of any Stonewall scheme in the future, and if so which.

Yours faithfully,

Ermine Amies

Information Officer, Wales Audit Office

Dear Ms Amies

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information in your email below.

I am considering your request in accordance with the procedures set out on the Audit Wales website at: http://www.audit.wales/openness-and-tran... .

The procedures are intended to ensure that requests are dealt with in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Code of Practice set under section 45 of the 2000 Act, the Data Protection Act 2018 and other relevant legislation.

I shall write to you again once I am able to provide a substantive response, though I may write to you before then if I need to clarify your request.

Please note that we have a policy of publishing in a disclosure log on our website information that we provide in response to requests where we consider that this is in the public interest. We will not, however, publish personal information if this would be unfair and so breach the first data protection principle. In line with this, we will generally not disclose the identity or other personal information of requesters. We will, however, disclose the identity of requesters if this is in the public interest and doing so would be fair, such as in the case of holders of public office. If you have any concerns regarding inclusion of our response to you in the disclosure log, please let me know.

In the meantime, if you have any queries, you are welcome to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Yazmin Steelandt-Humphries  
Arbenigwr y Gyfraith a Moeseg || Law and Ethics Specialist
Ffôn || Tel: 029 2032 0572
www.archwilio.cymru || www.audit.wales

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Information Officer, Wales Audit Office

Dear Ms Amies

Further to my email below I confirm that I am considering your information request.

Although the Freedom of Information Act carries a presumption in favour of disclosure, it provides exemptions which may be used to withhold information in specified circumstances. Some of these exemptions are subject to a public interest test, which are known as qualified exemptions. The public interest test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in favour of withholding the information under qualified exemptions.

The information request will be considered under the exemption contained in section 43(2) of the Act, which exempts information whose disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person. Section 10(3) of the Act allows us to exceed the 20 working day response where reasonably necessary to consider the public interest test fully. We aim to respond no later than 6 April 2021.

Should you have any queries about the handling of your information request then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Yazmin Steelandt-Humphries  
Arbenigwr y Gyfraith a Moeseg || Law and Ethics Specialist
Ffôn || Tel: 029 2032 0572
www.archwilio.cymru || www.audit.wales

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Ermine Amies left an annotation ()

S43 exemption under consideration - additional 20 days delay.

Information Officer, Wales Audit Office

Dear Ms Amies

 

I am writing in response to your request for information dated 7 February
2021 in which you requested information regarding Audit Wales’ dealings
with Stonewall, and further to my email of 5 March 2021, where I explained
an extension of time was required. For ease of reference, I have
reproduced your questions below in bold, and set out our corresponding
responses.

 

1.Any application you made in 2019 or 2020 to be a “Stonewall Diversity
Champion” or to be included on Stonewall’s “Workplace Equality Index,”
including any attachments or appendices to those applications. Please
redact personal details if necessary.

 

We registered to become a member of the Stonewall Cymru Diversity
Champions Programme in 2017 and have renewed this on an annual basis, to
continue our Diversity Champion status. We did make an application for the
Workplace Equality Index in both 2019 and 2020 (as well as one prior to
this period) – three applications have been made in total.

 

I am withholding copies of the applications under section 43(2) of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 which exempts information from disclosure
where such disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the
commercial interests of any person. As disclosure of the completed
application could enable other organisations to manipulate their
applications, this would be likely to compromise the perceived robustness
of the Workplace Equality Index in future, leading to reduced
participation and thereby prejudicing Stonewall’s commercial interests.

 

I have considered the public interest in disclosing this information:
informing the public about the use of public money and informing bodies as
to what may be beneficial for promoting diversity. In relation to the
latter, I note that Stonewall publish their [1]top 100 Employers list, on
their website, which they compile from the Workplace Equality Index. The
case studies (‘[2]What the Best Employers do’) and report relating to the
[3]top 100 Employers reference the nine areas of evaluation for the
Workplace Equality Index. These materials also provide good practice
examples across a range of organisations, and the availability of this
information seems to me to reduce the case for providing information that
is subject to a confidential assessment process.

 

Overall, I have concluded that the balance of public interest lies against
disclosure. Therefore, on balance I am of the view that the public
interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in
disclosure. In reaching this conclusion I have considered the  ICO
Guidance on section 43 - commercial interests:
[4]https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/sec....

 

The application information includes some personal information and special
category information which was submitted during the application process
strictly on the basis that this would be kept confidential between the
Wales Audit Office and Stonewall. Stonewall’s privacy notice states: “The
information supplied is confidential between Stonewall and the
applicant/organisation.- Any ranks outside of the Top 100 will remain
confidential between Stonewall and the applicant/organisation”. Disclosure
of the personal information would not be within the reasonable
expectations of the individuals concerned and would contravene data
protection principles. Such information is therefore exempt under Section
40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This is an absolute
exemption, which means that we do not have to balance the public interest
in disclosure.

 

2. Any feedback you received in 2019 or 2020 from Stonewall in relation to
either application or programme.

 

We received feedback in relation to the Workplace Index applications in
2019 and 2020. I am withholding this information under the exemption at
section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act relating to the prejudice
of commercial interests on the basis outlined in the response to (Q1)
above.

 

The feedback information was provided by Stonewall on the basis that it
would be not be shared further and would be treated in confidence. As
referenced in Q1, Stonewall’s privacy notice states “The information
supplied is confidential between Stonewall and the
applicant/organisation.- Any ranks outside of the Top 100 will remain
confidential between Stonewall and the applicant/organisation”.

Also, that:

“Any scoring or comments made on the submission is confidential between
Stonewall and the applicant/organisation…”

I am therefore also of the view that section 41(1) of the Freedom of
Information Act is engaged, which provides that we are not obliged to
disclose information that has been provided to us in confidence. The terms
of this exemption mean that we do not have to consider whether or not it
would be in the public interest for you to have the information.

 

3. Any other communication you have received from Stonewall in 2019 or
2020 unless privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure (but if you
claim privilege or exemption in relation to any material, please say in
broad terms what the material is and the basis on which you claim to be
entitled to withhold it).

 

We hold some email communications from Stonewall relating to arrangements
for general equality and diversity and unconscious bias training. The
emails contain personal data, and I am of the view that this information
is exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the Freedom of
Information Act, as disclosure would contravene the data protection
principles. I am also of the view that section 41(1) of the Freedom of
Information Act is engaged with some of the content, which provides that
we are not obliged to disclose information that has been provided to us in
confidence. As above answers to Q1 & Q2, the terms of these exemptions
mean that we do not have to engage the public interest test.

 

4. Full details of any equality impact assessment you carried out
connected with any of these applications (including any equality impact
assessment carried out prior to an earlier application of the same kind,
if no further assessment was done).

 

We did not carry out an Equality Impact Assessment on any of our
applications.

 

5. Details of the total amount of money you paid to Stonewall (i) in 2019;
(ii) in 2020, whether or not as payment for goods or services.

 

The total amounts paid to Stonewall are as follows:

(i)                  £4,807

(ii)                £4,200

 

6. Whether you intend to continue your membership of any Stonewall scheme
in the future, and if so which.

 

We currently have Diversity Champion status and the decision for renewal
of this status, or any future Workplace Index application will be reviewed
periodically by HR. Our Diversity Champion status is confirmed on our
recruitment page, and Stonewall’s Diversity Champion page:

 

[5]https://www.audit.wales/jobs

[6]https://www.stonewall.org.uk/diversity-c...

 

If you wish to request an internal review about the handling of your
request, please write to Martin Peters, Head of Law and Ethics, by email
to [7]martin.peters@audit.wales or by post to Audit Wales, 24 Cathedral
Road, Cardiff, CF11 9LJ.

 

I must also refer you to section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act
under which you may apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision
on whether or not your request has been dealt with in accordance with the
Act. The Information Commissioner’s contact details are:

 

Information Commissioner’s Office               
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF

email : [8][email address]

Tel: 01625 545745
Fax: 01625 524510

 

You should note, however, that the Information Commissioner would normally
expect you to have exhausted our internal complaints procedures before
dealing with such an application. Further guidance may be found on the
Information Commissioner’s website: [9]https://ico.org.uk/

 

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Yours sincerely

Yazmin

 

Yazmin Steelandt-Humphries  

Swyddog Gwybodaeth || Information Officer

Ffôn || Tel: 029 2032 0572

[10]www.archwilio.cymru || [11]www.audit.wales

 

 

References

Visible links
1. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/full-list-t...
2. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/what-best-e...
3. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/file...
4. https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/sec...
5. https://www.audit.wales/jobs
6. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/diversity-c...
7. mailto:martin.peters@audit.wales
8. mailto:[email address]
9. https://ico.org.uk/
10. http://www.archwilio.cymru/
11. http://www.audit.wales/

Dear Wales Audit Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wales Audit Office's handling of my FOI request 'Information about your dealings with Stonewall #DontSubmitToStonewall' and of your claim of the exemptions under section 43(2), section 40(2) and section 41(1)

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In answer to part 1 of my request:

1. Any application you made in 2019 or 2020 to be a “Stonewall Diversity Champion” or to be included on Stonewall’s “Workplace Equality Index,” including any attachments or appendices to those applications. Please redact personal details if necessary.

You responded:

“We registered to become a member of the Stonewall Cymru Diversity Champions Programme in 2017 and have renewed this on an annual basis, to continue our Diversity Champion status. We did make an application for the Workplace Equality Index in both 2019 and 2020 (as well as one prior to this period) – three applications have been made in total.
I am withholding copies of the applications under section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which exempts information from disclosure where such disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person. As disclosure of the completed application could enable other organisations to manipulate their applications, this would be likely to compromise the perceived robustness of the Workplace Equality Index in future, leading to reduced participation and thereby prejudicing Stonewall’s commercial interests.
I have considered the public interest in disclosing this information: informing the public about the use of public money and informing bodies as to what may be beneficial for promoting diversity.

In relation to the latter, I note that Stonewall publish their [1] top 100 Employers list, on their website, which they compile from the Workplace Equality Index. The case studies (‘[2] What the Best Employers do’) and report relating to the [3] top 100 Employers reference the nine areas of evaluation for the Workplace Equality Index. These materials also provide good practice examples across a range of organisations, and the availability of this information seems to me to reduce the case for providing information that is subject to a confidential assessment process.
Overall, I have concluded that the balance of public interest lies against disclosure. Therefore, on balance I am of the view that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure. In reaching this conclusion I have considered the ICO Guidance on section 43 - commercial interests:
The application information includes some personal information and special category information which was submitted during the application process strictly on the basis that this would be kept confidential between the Wales Audit Office and Stonewall. Stonewall’s privacy notice states: “The information supplied is confidential between Stonewall and the applicant/organisation.- Any ranks outside of the Top 100 will remain confidential between Stonewall and the applicant/organisation”.

Disclosure of the personal information would not be within the reasonable expectations of the individuals concerned and would contravene data protection principles. Such information is therefore exempt under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This is an absolute exemption, which means that we do not have to balance the public interest in disclosure.“

In answer to part 2 of my request:

2. Any feedback you received in 2019 or 2020 from Stonewall in relation to either application or programme, you responded:

“We received feedback in relation to the Workplace Index applications in 2019 and 2020. I am withholding this information under the exemption at section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act relating to the prejudice of commercial interests on the basis outlined in the response to (Q1) above.
The feedback information was provided by Stonewall on the basis that it would be not be shared further and would be treated in confidence. As referenced in Q1, Stonewall’s privacy notice states “The information supplied is confidential between Stonewall and the applicant/organisation.- Any ranks outside of the Top 100 will remain confidential between Stonewall and the applicant/organisation”.
Also, that:
“Any scoring or comments made on the submission is confidential between Stonewall and the applicant/organisation…” I am therefore also of the view that section 41(1) of the Freedom of Information Act is engaged, which provides that we are not obliged to disclose information that has been provided to us in confidence. The terms of this exemption mean that we do not have to consider whether or not it would be in the public interest for you to have the information.”

In answer to part 3 of my request:

3. Any other communication you have received from Stonewall in 2019 or 2020 unless privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure (but if you claim privilege or exemption in relation to any material, please say in broad terms what the material is and the basis on which you claim to be entitled to withhold it), you responded:

“We hold some email communications from Stonewall relating to arrangements for general equality and diversity and unconscious bias training. The emails contain personal data, and I am of the view that this information is exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, as disclosure would contravene the data protection principles. I am also of the view that section 41(1) of the Freedom of Information Act is engaged with some of the content, which provides that we are not obliged to disclose information that has been provided to us in confidence. As above answers to Q1 & Q2, the terms of these exemptions mean that we do not have to engage the public interest test.”
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Re section 43(2) exemption for parts 1 & 2 of the request:

The information you list that Stonewall publishes does not capture a representative picture of your dealings with Stonewall as requested.

Information on the format and pricing is also in the public domain as other organisations have fully answered similar FOI requests.

Here are some examples of the comprehensive responses made by other bodies when asked the same/similar questions. You may wish to consider following their example as regards the detail provided.

The responses provided by Sussex University: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

The responses provided by Edinburgh University: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

The responses provided by ACAS https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

There are 3 areas you should also consider in your review.

1) The strong case for openness and transparency in your dealings with Stonewall, given the Equality Minister's call for all public sector organisations to leave Stonewall.

2) The accountability for spending public money on advice from an organisation that the Reindorf Review found has an erroneous understanding of the law, basing advice, directions on policy and requirements for the Workplace Equality Index on the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is.

3) Your Public Sector Equality Duty - withholding this information obstructs your execution of your Public Sector Equality Duty including the duty to advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not and the duty to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Re Section 40(2) for parts 1 & 3:

The information requested is not personal data and does not risk identification of confiders on your staff. Disclosure of personal information is not required to answer this FOI request. The usual content of data requested from Stonewall can be redacted to remove identifiable data including emails, names etc.

Re section 41(1) exemption for parts 2 & 3:

The Workplace Equality Index, scoring scheme & feedback format already appears in the public domain. So the information does not possess the necessary quality of confidence to claim detrimental impact on Stonewall thus no actionable breach by providing the information.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours,

Ermine Amies

Note: For ease of reference, I am noting the answers to parts 4, 5 & 6 of my request where no review is necessary here.

4.We did not carry out an Equality Impact Assessment on any of our applications.

5. The total amounts paid to Stonewall were £4,807 in 2019 and £4,200 in 2020.

6. We currently have Diversity Champion status and the decision for renewal of this status, or any future Workplace Index application will be reviewed periodically by HR. Our Diversity Champion status is confirmed on our recruitment page, and Stonewall’s Diversity Champion page.

Information Officer, Wales Audit Office

Dear Ms Amies

I write to acknowledge your email and confirm that I have passed your request for an internal review for parts 1-3 of the request under reference IR772 onto Martin Peters who will contact you in due course.

Yours sincerely

Yazmin Steelandt-Humphries  
Swyddog Gwybodaeth || Information Officer
Ffôn || Tel: 029 2032 0514
www.archwilio.cymru || www.audit.wales

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Ermine Amies left an annotation ()

Internal Review due by 14/07/2021