Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

The ICO guide to Freedom of Information (https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui... ) clearly states the following with regards to FOI request outcomes and conduct of internal reviews:

"What if the requester is unhappy with the outcome?

Under the Act, there is no obligation for an authority to provide a complaints process. However, it is good practice (under the section 45 code of practice) and most public authorities choose to do so.

If you do have a complaints procedure, also known as an internal review, you should:

......

* ensure the review takes no longer than 20 working days in most cases, or 40 in exceptional circumstances."

The ICO guidance document for organizations "How long do I have to carry out an internal review?" (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1... )

says the following:

"The Commissioner considers it important that internal reviews are completed as promptly as possible and so is introducing this guidance setting out what he considers to be a reasonable timescale for public authorities to undertake an internal review following a request by an applicant."

.......

"In view of all the above the Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review. There may be a small number of cases which involve exceptional circumstances where it may be reasonable to take longer. In those circumstances, the public authority should, as a matter of good practice, notify the requester and explain why more time is needed."

For all internal review (IR) requests RECEIVED in 2016, please state the :

1) Number of IR's where you responded on or within the reasonable timeframe of 20 working days. [1]

2) Number of IR's where you responded on or within the exceptional circumstances timeframe of 40 working days. [1]

3) For all instances in (2), how many instances did you contact the requester to let them know that the IR will take longer than 20 working days AND EXPLAIN WHY MORE TIME IS NEEDED. [2]

4) Number of IR's that took longer than 40 working days. [1]

5) How many IR's have passed the 40 working day exceptional circumstances timeframe, and are STILL AWAITING A RESPONSE. [3]

Yours faithfully,

Mr Navartne

[1] – Please include the reference number of the IR request (I believe you keep the same reference as the original request, so IR reference will suffice), date of receipt and date of response of each IR.

[2] - provide the reference number of each IR request and the date you contacted requester.

[3] - please provide IR reference number, and IR request received date.

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Mr Navartne

 

Your information request (FDN-274311)

 

I am writing in response to your email of 18 January 2017, in which you
asked for data relating to PHSO’s processing of internal reviews about
information requests.

 

Specifically, you asked for information on the following:

 

o Number of reviews concluded within 20 working days;
o Number of reviews concluded within 40 working days;
o Number of reviews which took longer than 40 working days to conclude;
o Number of reviews which have passed beyond 40 working days and still
outstanding;
o Number of times a requestor was contacted and advised that the review
would take longer than 20 working days with an explanation of why more
time was needed;
o Case references, date of receipt and response dates for each internal
review, as well as details of the number of times the requestor was
contacted.

 

PHSO holds central records relating to its internal reviews, which
includes case references, the date the review request was received and the
date it was responded to.  However, in order to answer your question about
communication with requestors (specifically, the number of times a
requestor was contacted and advised that the review would take longer than
20 working days with an explanation of why more time was needed), we would
need to manually check our case file records.  As checking each case
record manually takes some time, I have estimated how long it would take
to respond to your request.

 

I have calculated that it would likely take at least 18 hours to respond
to your request as currently framed, which means that section 12 of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) is engaged.  This exemption applies
to requests where information is too costly to extract.

However, in line with section 16 FOIA, I would be happy to advise you on
how to reformulate your request so that we are able to respond to it.  As
set out above, it is the communication element of your request which has
made the request costly to respond to.  By removing this element from your
request, we would be able to comply with it within the reasonable limit. 
Another option would be to keep the request as it is, but to reduce its
time frame – for example, to the last six months of 2016.

 

Finally, I should point out that PHSO aims to respond to all internal
reviews within 40 working days.  The Section 45 Code of Practice on public
authorities’ functions under Part 1 FOIA states, at Paragraph 42, that
authorities ‘should set their own target times for dealing with
complaints’.

 

I hope that this information is helpful. If you believe we have made an
error in the way I have processed your information request, it is open to
you to request an internal review.  You can do this by writing to us by
post or by email to [1][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email]. You will need
to specify what the nature of the issue is and we can consider the matter
further. Beyond that, it is open to you to complain to the Information
Commissioner’s Office ([2]www.ico.org.uk).

 

Yours sincerely

 

Aimee Gasston

Freedom of Information and Data Protection Officer

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [3]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [4][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email]

 

 

From: navartne [mailto:[FOI #382863 email]]
Sent: 18 January 2017 14:25
To: InformationRights
Subject: FDN-274311 Freedom of Information request - Internal Review
Handling and Timeliness

 

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

The ICO guide to Freedom of Information
([5]https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui...
) clearly states the following with regards to FOI request outcomes and
conduct of internal reviews:

"What if the requester is unhappy with the outcome?

Under the Act, there is no obligation for an authority to provide a
complaints process. However, it is good practice (under the section 45
code of practice) and most public authorities choose to do so.

If you do have a complaints procedure, also known as an internal review,
you should:

......

* ensure the review takes no longer than 20 working days in most cases, or
40 in exceptional circumstances."

The ICO guidance document for organizations "How long do I have to carry
out an internal review?"
([6]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...
)

says the following:

"The Commissioner considers it important that internal reviews are
completed as promptly as possible and so is introducing this guidance
setting out what he considers to be a reasonable timescale for public
authorities to undertake an internal review following a request by an
applicant."

.......

"In view of all the above the Commissioner considers that a reasonable
time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of
the request for review. There may be a small number of cases which involve
exceptional circumstances where it may be reasonable to take longer. In
those circumstances, the public authority should, as a matter of good
practice, notify the requester and explain why more time is needed."

For all internal review (IR) requests RECEIVED in 2016, please state the :

1) Number of IR's where you responded on or within the reasonable
timeframe of 20 working days. [1]

2) Number of IR's where you responded on or within the exceptional
circumstances timeframe of 40 working days. [1]

3) For all instances in (2), how many instances did you contact the
requester to let them know that the IR will take longer than 20 working
days AND EXPLAIN WHY MORE TIME IS NEEDED. [2]

4) Number of IR's that took longer than 40 working days. [1]

5) How many IR's have passed the 40 working day exceptional circumstances
timeframe, and are STILL AWAITING A RESPONSE. [3]

Yours faithfully,

Mr Navartne

[1] Please include the reference number of the IR request (I believe you
keep the same reference as the original request, so IR reference will
suffice), date of receipt and date of response of each IR.

[2] - provide the reference number of each IR request and the date you
contacted requester.

[3] - please provide IR reference number, and IR request received date.

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Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

navartne

I'm astonished that this work is not monitored,as it is a legal obligation.

How else would the PHSO know that the organisation is complying with the law?

:::

There are many requests on WDTK . If you're prepared to wade through them for the time period stated, it should give you a fair sample of how many times the PHSO fails to adhere to the law.

Meanwhile this was a previous report to the board on the number of Foia requests.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

The PHSO FOIA team now assures me that neither the FOIA team, or the PHSO legal team report to the board on any aspect of their work.

- This was the clarified request - which was not answered:

' Could you therefore provide data showing how the PHSO board is informed of the work of these departments, as clearly the board cannot be entirely  in ignorance of  the work these two departments - to meet its governance standards.

Presumably since I have not received a reply, they've been reduced to departments carrying out PHSO work that doesn't matter.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/q...

navartne left an annotation ()

Jt Oakley: PHSO has definitely shot it self in the foot here. Another analogy would be that they've moved the goal posts, but scored an own goal at the same time (this must be a first).

PHSO is quoting Para. 42 of Section 45 Code of Practice on public authorities’ functions under Part 1 FOIA. However, what that para. says is (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy... ):

" Authorities should set their own target times for dealing with complaints; these should be reasonable, and subject to regular review. Each public authority should publish its target times for determining complaints and information as to how successful it is with meeting those targets."

PHSO does not publish how successful they are dealing with IR's. They only publish how successful they are with handling FOI request. I've seen many of their documents boasting that the rate is above 90%. In one of the requests you made, they've said it's 97%. (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/3... )

The target times for complaints mentioned in the Section 45 Code of Practice is not talking about maximum times, even if it is, it could not have envisaged that the Information Commissioners would be publishing a Good Practice Guide much later, around 2008-09 (see ICO decisio: FS50159410)

The target times is different to maximum time/stop gap time's, which comes under the purview of the commissioner and she/he is duty bound under the Act to enforce the good practice guidelines. Although PHSO and ICO say, IR limits are not mentioned in the FOIA, the commissioner does have an obligation, through the FOIA. See - Section 47(2)(b) of FOIA.

The reason I say PHSO shot it self in the foot is, because I don't think this unique 'PHSO only' 40 working day target time has ever been reviewed by them, nor have they published how successful they are at coming close to it.

::

I would have thought PHSO would interpret the part of the para. 42 they've mentioned together with what the rest of the paragraph says. Guess I'm expecting too much!.

::

BTW, thanks for the two links in your annot before. It really helped with one of my other requests to these jokers.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Since the PHSO has stated in previous requests that it was running requests past External Affairs ...and even Dame Julie Mellor herself, the responses have often been letters instead of the requested data on file.

And with the usual accompaniment of PR produce of links to leaflets stating how well the PHSO is doing.

Thus failing to respond to providing the on-file data.

It's why I specify S16 -help and assistance - in the framing a request ( because the PHSO often doesn't even consider that it has to comply with this ICO listed 'duty' ) and that I don't require a letter composed by External Affairs,or anyone else - instead of the on-file data requested under the Act.

In fact, looking through the WDTK requests , the PHSO has seemingly got away with this so often, I think it's forgotten that it has to supply ORIGINAL data (including internal emails) and not newly written responses.

Especially in the last -18 months or so.

ICO guidance: This is the process ....and its worth reminding the PHSO that it MUST comply with it.

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

:::

The law which pertains to supplying the data without withholding data, which the PHSO has done on two suspiciously critical pieces of data. ( and more ....but not critical).

This means that PHSO officers may have been guilty of a legal offence at least twice, (as I've had the formal apologies for the withholding of the requested files).

Nb One was a pre-court set of documents.

For which the ICO had to intervene .....as both sides are supposed to have access to the same documents in court, to argue the legal points fairly.

FOIA ..

77.—(1) Where—
(a) a request for information has been made to a public authority, and

(b) under section 1 of this Act or section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, the applicant would have been entitled (subject to payment of any fee) to communication of any information in accordance with that section, any person to whom this subsection applies is

.......GUILTY OF AN OFFENCE if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.

(2) Subsection (1) applies to the public authority and to any person who is employed by, is an officer of, or is subject to the direction of, the public authority. 

::::

PHSO states:


4. Staff responsibilities 
4.1 PHSO has a corporate responsibility to identify and respond to requests for information as efficiently as possible, and within the statutory deadlines. It is the responsibility of all PHSO staff to identify and take appropriate action on information requests as soon as they are received.

PHSO staff may also be required to assist the FOI/DP Team in locating information and ensuring the accuracy of the final response. 


Nb That's 'accuracy' - not replacing the requested data with PHSO-favourable letters.

Page 4 of 8
Policy – PHSO Access to Information Policy v1.0

navartne left an annotation ()

jt oakley:

Did the PHSO produce this supposedly 'original' emails at the Tribunal, or are they doing this now when replying to requests. Either way, pretty serious. PHSO is bound to slip-up sometime.

::

About your annotation on 15 February 2017: that document by Luke Whiting (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2... ) - 4.7.7. is rather interesting or should I say "contemptuous" :

"4.7.7 The Tribunal’s decision came as a disappointment but it does not have a significant impact on our day to day work. There is though learning for the team about how and when we decide to defend a case at Tribunal and things that we will do differently in the future. With hindsight, we didn’t control what we could control. We assumed the ICO would attend and we assumed that this was a case they would defend with the vigour that we would have. Concerns that acting as a ‘listed party’ might count against PHSO and generate adverse publicity held sway when the decision making should have primarily centred on the reputational risks associated with an upheld tribunal case. In future decisions about whether or not to join an appeal will be taken outside the team by the SIRO/Chief Executive. Options will be provided along with the risks associated for discussion and a formal decision."

PHSO don't seem to be very accepting of the Tribunal's decision. (I remember you saying something along the same lines a while ago - that unless the story is covered by the media - PHSO simply do not care - if anything PHSO is now focusing on minimising 'reputational risks'). PHSO has simply blamed it on an error in their internal decision making, which led to an unfavorable decision.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

jt oakley:

Did the PHSO produce this supposedly 'original' emails at the Tribunal, or are they doing this now when replying to requests. Either way, pretty serious. PHSO is bound to slip-up sometime.

This is the executive office request which was vexed.
If you read it you can see the gaming strategies used by the PHSO.
It's a PHSO classic.

1. Reinterpreting it.
2. Not applying its response to the request.
3. Not giving any S16 help and assistance.
4. Vexing it on flimsy grounds without having seemingly read, or understood, the request.
5. Suddenly sending written mail responses to my home address when I questioned the neglectful response to avoid responding on WDTK.
6. Doing more than one review after I complained to the ICO.

That's beside all the little mistakes,- which I would have forgiven - if the PHSO had not been so arrogant and unreasonable towards what is quite a simple request. Even a helpful reminder I gave for the PHSO to consider a recent ICO decision on the topic.

The Vanity Vex:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request executive_office_2#comment-56846

A- The PHSO had a confidential index -in which a list of requests are kept.

In its evidence to the ICO when I complained about the unjustified vexing, the PHSO stated that i had made 'over 1OO requests' -as evidence of the vexation of this request.

I questioned how on earth they could come to this number - and what was their evidence,as it was evident that some files must be missing from my SAR.

Pre-court I asked the ICO lawyer did he have the evidential files - because I certainly didn't ....

The ICO lawyer was helpful in getting the reluctant PHSO to hand over the files to me.

Reluctant because when I eventually got them by post, some were still missing and some pages out of order and blank.

A mess.

Oddly enough the number of requests had gone down to 50 ....and some of those were clarifications

The ICO lawyer basically said:

' Er you've got more than these?' to the PHSO.

'This is just a sample right?'

- No other files were provided by the PHSO.
-
I could practically hear the ICO lawyer gulp at this point - because the ICO had based its decision on these ' over 100 requests'.

I think the PHSO's strategy was to think it would all end with the ICO and it could ' control' the court as well.

That was why the verdict was so critical about the PHSO FOIA responses.

I think the actual number was around 34 requests - and on a variety of subjects.

And they were sensible, reasonable requests in order to find out who to present the complaint case that the PHSO had badly botched up

(Nb My complaint was also upheld with the external investigator stating how poorly the complaint had been handled)

The only contention came when the PHSO started gaming and adding false clarifications towards a vexation on this request ...it was just a simple drive to vex a request of mine I think, since I'd requested to know why Dame Julie Mellor had employed her old colleague on a £60k plus contract.

:::

The internal legal logic on file for the vexation of the request says: 'We have had enough'.

IMO- Definitely Diva - as it's not enough for the PHSO just to say that and expect a court to jump into line, without the supporting evidence. Even if the ICO was biddable.

Indeed, after I gave evidence of this tortuous request response in court, the Tribunal complimented me for having the patience to deal with the PHSO.

* And phsothefacts members -I think your support of this request in annotations counted.

It was obviously a request for information that would be of use to ALL complainants whose justified complaints had been 'black-holed' and remained unanswered.

::

In addition - The PHSO had also told the ICO it had ' no remit' to investigate my evidence. It had.

But the ICO backed off and decided on the evidence of the PHSO's unchecked statement for its formal Decision.

Maybe the PHSO hoped that the ICO could slip the missing confidential index to the judge/s without me knowing...Hard to tell. Even if it had, judges can count.

:::

I asked if the PHSO would join ( as a listed party) with the ICO in the case, so I could question this evidence in court.

The PHSO said no, so the ICO was left to take the hit if I won my case.

The ICO didn't turn up at court.

I didn't blame it. In fact, I felt sorry for their decent lawyer.

:::

The Tribunal members were fair.

I was able to give evidence that the PHSO had not provided all the facts ( to say the least) and the verdict was so obvious that they took around 5 minutes to decide in my favour.

The PHSO could not appeal the verdict as it had declined to 'join' the case..... Although I was told that it tried very hard to do so.

Again..innate arrogance - for thinking that it's misinformation to the ICO would stand and it could control events in the higher court. Who knows? It might be able to.
------------------------------------------------------------

About your annotation on 15 February 2017: that document by Luke Whiting (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2... ) - 4.7.7. is rather interesting or should I say "contemptuous" :

A - Yes. You are correct. You'll notice the 'reputational risks ' and 'control' -loom large in the PHSO's FOIA thinking below.

By that time the external affairs department was 'screening' ( and possibly personally 'editing' for all I know) FOIA responses - to make sure nothing embarrassing got out.

But even if the PHSO had turned up, it would have lost.

----

Below is the explanation by the head of FOIA department of why it lost - to the PHSO board.

Clearly the ICO took the 'hit' in court and the implication to the PHSO board was that it didn't fight the case hard enough - by this account given by the head of FOIA. So obviously it was all the ICO's fault.

Note- The next court attendance decision is taken out of the hands of the FOIA head - to the chief executive,.

--------------

Did the PHSO produce this supposedly 'original' emails at the Tribunal, or are they doing this now when replying to requests. Either way, pretty serious. PHSO is bound to slip-up sometime.

---

A- Trouble is, it 'slips up' quite a lot.

And, by a strange coincidence, twice on critical pieces of reputationally embarrassing data.

::

About your annotation on 15 February 2017: that document by Luke Whiting (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2... ) - 4.7.7. is rather interesting or should I say "contemptuous" :

"4.7.7 The Tribunal’s decision came as a disappointment but it does not have a significant impact on our day to day work. There is though learning for the team about how and when we decide to defend a case at Tribunal and things that we will do differently in the future. With hindsight, we didn’t control what we could control. We assumed the ICO would attend and we assumed that this was a case they would defend with the vigour that we would have. Concerns that acting as a ‘listed party’ might count against PHSO and generate adverse publicity held sway when the decision making should have primarily centred on the reputational risks associated with an upheld tribunal case. In future decisions about whether or not to join an appeal will be taken outside the team by the SIRO/Chief Executive. Options will be provided along with the risks associated for discussion and a formal decision."

:::

PHSO don't seem to be very accepting of the Tribunal's decision. (I remember you saying something along the same lines a while ago - that unless the story is covered by the media - PHSO simply do not care - if anything PHSO is now focusing on minimising 'reputational risks'). PHSO has simply blamed it on an error in their internal decision making, which led to an unfavorable

---

A- Yes, you are right. No apology for forcing me into court on such evidence.

I complained to the PHSO that the FOIA department had manufactured and withheld evidence towards this unjustified vexation.

IMO - That's not a proper way for Ombudsman employees to represent the PHSO ....and it is therefore a justified complaint in my book.

The PHSO's argument was that - as I'd won the case - that was it.

No complaint could be made about the 'presentation' of the misleading evidence and telling the ICO it had 'no remit' to check my evidence during the case could be made.

Nb It takes many hours to check all the paperwork and if you are not used to the court process, it's a steep learning curve.

And no, the PHSO stated that I certainly couldn't have an external investigator to decide the matter of whether the PHSO employees concerned had breached their work contracts.

Nb I did, however, get an apology for the way that the FOIA department had withheld the evidence (in my favour) of the Confidential Index.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Internal Review Handling and Timeliness'.

1) The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) provides the following guidelines [1] in relation to section 12 of the FOIA:

"37. It is useful if a public authority explains how it has calculated its estimate [on time/cost] by explaining:

** its search strategy, for example:

* whether it has carried out any searches for the requested information;
* whether it has based its estimate on a random or representative sampling exercise;
* which departments or members of staff have been contacted;
* the search terms used when querying electronic records;

** why it needs to search the files/records it has referred to;

** how the information is stored, for example, whether the information is held in paper or electronic files;

** how many files, boxes, documents, records or emails need to be reviewed and;

** how long it would take to determine whether the requested information is held or to locate, retrieve and extract it. For example, it is useful to detail the size of the relevant files; the average length of time it would take to review each file and the number of staff required.

38. It is not a statutory requirement to explain how the estimate has been calculated but it is beneficial to a public authority to do so for the following reasons:

** to enable the requestor to assess the reasonableness of the estimate. This may help to prevent a complaint to the ICO which will avoid further time and costs being expended on the same request;

** if a complaint is made to the Information Commissioner, then he will expect the level of detail, as set out above, to be provided. This may require the public authority to incur further costs in providing this detail. This task may also be complicated by changes in circumstances between the time of the request and the time of the ICO investigation;

** in any event, providing a suitable breakdown is likely to be required as part of a public authority’s statutory obligations under section 16 to provide advice and assistance (for more detail see the relevant content below). “

I'm afraid the above aspects were not covered in your reply. I was merely told that you "have calculated that it would likely take at least 18 hours to respond to [my] request as currently framed, which means that section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) is engaged."

I therefore require you to conduct the internal review and provide a response that is in line with the ICO's good practice guidance.

2) In addition, your response is not clear on whether reformulating the request for the last six months of 2016 should be applied for all the elements (1) to (5), or if it's sufficient just to apply it for part (3). Kindly provide some cogent advice in this regards.

3) The ICO guidelines state that Internal Reviews MUST be completed at the earliest opportunity and in any case no later than 20 working days (extendable to 40 working days in exceptional circumstances). Paragraph 42 of section 45 of the Code of Practice [2] refers to 'target times' not the maximum time allowed to process an internal review request. The maximum times are set by the Commissioner as per the Good Practice Guidance No. 5. [3] Institutions are not able to set their own maximum time limits for handling Internal Reviews. If this was the case, you would be able to set a target date of 365 days, which I am sure you appreciate, would render the whole process a pointless exercise for all concerned.

Please note that the above has been specifically dealt with in ICO Decision: FS50632671: [4]

"52. Part VI of the section 45 Code of Practice makes it desirable practice that a public authority should have a procedure in place for dealing with complaints about its handling of requests for information, and that the procedure should encourage a prompt determination of the complaint.
As she has made clear in her ‘Good Practice Guidance No 5’, the Commissioner considers that these internal reviews should be completed as promptly as possible. While no explicit timescale is laid down by FOIA, the Commissioner has decided that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review. In exceptional circumstances it may be reasonable to take longer but in no case should the time taken exceed 40 working days. The Commissioner is concerned that in this case, it took over 95 working days for an internal review to be completed, despite the publication of her guidance on the matter. "

I would therefor urge you to complete this Internal Review promptly and in no later than 20 working days, UNLESS there are exceptional circumstances.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mr Navartne

[1] - https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...
[2] - https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy...
[3] - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...
[4] - https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Mr Navartne

 

Your information request (FDN-274311)

 

I am writing in response to your email of 21 February 2017 in which you
have asked for clarification around our application of section 12 of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000.  As you have raised queries, I will
respond to them here rather than processing an internal review.

 

Reasons for application of section 12 in relation to part 3 of request
(how many instances did PHSO contact information requestors in relation to
their internal review)

 

In my previous response, I advised the following:

 

PHSO holds central records relating to its internal reviews, which
includes case references, the date the review request was received and the
date it was responded to.  However, in order to answer your question about
communication with requestors (specifically, the number of times a
requestor was contacted and advised that the review would take longer than
20 working days with an explanation of why more time was needed), we would
need to manually check our case file records.  As checking each case
record manually takes some time, I have estimated how long it would take
to respond to your request.

 

I made clear that it was the question about communication with requestors
that would take time to respond to, and that the reason for this was that
it meant that we needed to look at each individual file to extract this
information for you.

 

Central records of internal reviews indicate that a total of 72 case files
would need to be checked in order to provide you with information relating
to your question about communication with requestors.  This is because
while our central records detail dates and outcomes of reviews, they do
not provide the intricate level of detail which you asked for in your
request, specifically ‘how many instances did you contact the requester to
let them know that the IR will take longer than 20 working days AND
EXPLAIN WHY MORE TIME IS NEEDED’. In order to respond to this part of
your request, information needs to be extracted from the electronic file
created for each separate request, and correspondence reviewed to
determine its relevance to this part of your request.

 

In order to estimate how long it would take to extract the information for
this request, we carried out test runs, extracting information in relation
to two different cases and timing the process so that we could estimate
how long it would take to comply with the whole request. This work
involved checking the central records and then manually checking the
information request case file attached to it in order to extract
correspondence relating to the review . On the first case, it took 14
minutes to extract the data required. On the second case, there was a lot
of correspondence and it took a total of 16 minutes to extract information
from it. This resulted in an average of 15 minutes to extract the data
from each case.

 

This works out at a total of 18 hours (15 x 72 = 1080 minutes or 18
hours), which meets the ‘appropriate limit’ for section 12 FOIA, meaning
that the exemption was engaged.  However, despite just meeting the
appropriate limit for section 12, it is clear that we could easily respond
to the request if it was revised so that (a) it did not request
information relating to communication with applicants or (b) did so but in
relation to a smaller time frame.

 

Advice on narrowing your request (section 16 FOIA)

 

In my previous response, I advised you as follows:

 

As set out above, it is the communication element of your request which
has made the request costly to respond to.  By removing this element from
your request, we would be able to comply with it within the reasonable
limit.  Another option would be to keep the request as it is, but to
reduce its time frame – for example, to the last six months of 2016.

 

Only part 3 of your request related to the issue of communication with
requestors and was the reason that section 12 FOIA was engaged in relation
to your entire request.  The advice above intended to explain that we
could respond to your entire request with either question 3 omitted or
revised so that it applied to a narrower time frame.

 

I hope that this advice is helpful and we look forward to receiving and
responding to your slightly amended request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Aimee Gasston

Freedom of Information and Data Protection Officer

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [1]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [2][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email]

 

 

 

From: navartne [mailto:[FOI #382863 email]]
Sent: 21 February 2017 16:08
To: InformationRights
Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Internal
Review Handling and Timeliness

 

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Internal Review Handling
and Timeliness'.

1) The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) provides the following
guidelines [1] in relation to section 12 of the FOIA:

"37. It is useful if a public authority explains how it has calculated its
estimate [on time/cost] by explaining:

** its search strategy, for example:

* whether it has carried out any searches for the requested information;
      * whether it has based its estimate on a random or representative
sampling exercise;
      * which departments or members of staff have been contacted; 
      *  the search terms used when querying electronic records;

** why it needs to search the files/records it has referred to;

** how the information is stored, for example, whether the information is
held in paper or electronic files;

** how many files, boxes, documents, records or emails need to be reviewed
and;

** how long it would take to determine whether the requested information
is held or to locate, retrieve and extract it. For example, it is useful
to detail the size of the relevant files; the average length of time it
would take to review each file and the number of staff required.

38. It is not a statutory requirement to explain how the estimate has been
calculated but it is beneficial to a public authority to do so for the
following reasons:

** to enable the requestor to assess the reasonableness of the estimate.
This may help to prevent a complaint to the ICO which will avoid further
time and costs being expended on the same request;

** if a complaint is made to the Information Commissioner, then he will
expect the level of detail, as set out above, to be provided. This may
require the public authority to incur further costs in providing this
detail. This task may also be complicated by changes in circumstances
between the time of the request and the time of the ICO investigation;

** in any event, providing a suitable breakdown is likely to be required
as part of a public authoritys statutory obligations under section 16 to
provide advice and assistance (for more detail see the relevant content
below).

I'm afraid the above aspects were not covered in your reply. I was merely
told that you "have calculated that it would likely take at least 18 hours
to respond to [my] request as currently framed, which means that section
12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) is engaged."

I therefore require you to conduct the internal review and provide a
response that is in line with the ICO's good practice guidance.

2) In addition, your response is not clear on whether reformulating the
request for the last six months of 2016 should be applied for all the
elements (1) to (5), or if it's sufficient just to apply it for part (3).
Kindly provide some cogent advice in this regards.

3) The ICO guidelines state that Internal Reviews MUST be completed at the
earliest opportunity and in any case no later than 20 working days
(extendable to 40 working days in exceptional circumstances). Paragraph 42
of section 45 of the Code of Practice [2] refers to 'target times' not the
maximum time allowed to process an internal review request. The maximum
times are set by the Commissioner as per the Good Practice Guidance No. 5.
[3] Institutions are not able to set their own maximum time limits for
handling Internal Reviews. If this was the case, you would be able to set
a target date of 365 days, which I am sure you appreciate, would render
the whole process a pointless exercise for all concerned.

Please note that the above has been specifically dealt with in ICO
Decision: FS50632671: [4]

"52. Part VI of the section 45 Code of Practice makes it desirable
practice that a public authority should have a procedure in place for
dealing with complaints about its handling of requests for information,
and that the procedure should encourage a prompt determination of the
complaint.
As she has made clear in her Good Practice Guidance No 5, the Commissioner
considers that these internal reviews should be completed as promptly as
possible. While no explicit timescale is laid down by FOIA, the
Commissioner has decided that a reasonable time for completing an internal
review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review. In
exceptional circumstances it may be reasonable to take longer but in no
case should the time taken exceed 40 working days. The Commissioner is
concerned that in this case, it took over 95 working days for an internal
review to be completed, despite the publication of her guidance on the
matter. "

I would therefor urge you to complete this Internal Review promptly and in
no later than 20 working days, UNLESS there are exceptional circumstances.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mr Navartne

[1] -
[4]https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...
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[3] -
[6]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...
[4] -
[7]https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

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navartne left an annotation ()

Strewth!. Average of 15 minutes to examine a case file and extract a single bit of information. I have two issues with this. One, PHSO has only looked at two files to come-up with the average. If you have 72 files, checking two files won't give you a proper average. It's like asking 10 people living in a certain part of Manchester if they support Manchester United football club, if they all say "yes", concluding 'on average' the population of Manchester support Manchester United. Not so.

Second issue is: The limit to engage time and cost exemption is 18 hours. I recently made a request to the ICO [1], where the limit exceeded 18 hours. However, they still responded to it. [2] It beggars belief that PHSO refused to respond because the estimate was exactly 18 hours.

Summary: the rather high estimate (18 Hours) and the estimate exactly landing on 18 hours just doesn't seem to add-up. Complaining to ICO.

[1] - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/h...
[2] - ICO had combined the time taken to process two requests. Perhaps time for both requests (combined) just exceeded 18 hours.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

The PHSO has been hurling money at new computer systems. Supposedly streamlining the old system and making files easily retrievable. Plus a new website

This is just part of it:

Expenditure:
Optevia,"500,000.00",Case Management System - Dynamics,15/10/2014,2 years
,,IT -based solutions,,

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

::::

Therefore why does the PHSO still take so long to find anything to do with complaints and reviews?

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

Covering up the facts whilst still being seen to respond takes time.

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