Kicking new information into the long grass.

The request was partially successful.

Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

My complaint to the Adjudicator's Office (AO)against HMRC was recently found to be 'not upheld'. I then received new and very important information from HMRC (forced out of them by the FOIA) that materially and significantly affects my original complaint to the AO. I referred the important new information to the AO. The AO responded by stating:
'The Adjudicator will prioritise those cases where customers are still waiting for her decision.'
Therefore those complainants to the AO who receive important new information about their complaint after it has been decided by the AO will have this new information kicked into the very, very long grass, where hopefully for the AO it will go away and die.

(1) Where in legislation, or in the AO's published or internal documents, does it state that new cases will be prioritised over closed cases where significant new information has been produced or come to light? Please provide a justified rationale for this prioritisation policy. Why are cases and subsequent information received not dealt with on a first come first served basis and not Mr A's case is more important than Mr B's case and therefore Mr B's case can not only go to the back of the queue, but can just be perpetually ignored? This proves definitively that the AO is biased in favour of HMRC because it does not want the little people to finally get to the truth. Isn't that so AO?

(2) How long on average did it take the AO to come back to a complainant with a final decision after it had been kicked into that very long green stuff?

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

The Adjudicator’s Office

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M Boyce

 

Please find attached response to your recent Freedom of information
request

 

Regards

 

Freedom of Information Team

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Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of The Adjudicator’s Office's handling of my FOI request 'Kicking new information into the long grass.'.

Thank you for your reply.

You appear to be refusing to supply the requested information under Section 1 of the FOIA. You have a duty to respond to the following questions I asked:

(1) Where in legislation, or in the AO's published guidance or internal documents, does it state that new cases will be prioritised over closed cases where significant new information has been produced or come to light?
(2) How long on average does it take the AO to come back to a complainant with a final decision after it has been kicked into that very long green stuff? For clarification, that means how long does it take the AO on average over the last 12 months to come back to a complainant with a final decision after a post-recommendation question after the complainant's request for information has been deemed to be less of a priority than than of a new request?

Thank you

[ GIVE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR COMPLAINT HERE ]

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

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

It has now been more than 20 working days since I requested an internal review of my FOI request. You have not replied. In your previous reply to me you accused me of abusing the FOIA. I would consider that you are abusing the FOIA by not replying to my request for internal review within the required time. I would now like a response within 2 working days of this follow-up or I will proceed straight to the ICO to ask them to investigate the matter.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

You have until the end of today to provide some sort of response. If that is not forthcoming I will be sending this link to the ICO to investigate the matter.
I will remind you that I already have two investigations about you in process with the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

This FOI link has now been sent to the ICO. Let's see who they think is abusing the FOIA.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

The Adjudicator’s Office

1 Attachment

M Boyce
 
Please find attached response to your Freedom of information communication
 
Regards
 
Freedom of Information Team
 
 
 
 
 

The information in this e-mail and any attachments is confidential and may
be subject to legal professional privilege. Unless you are the intended
recipient or his/her representative you are not authorised to, and must
not, read, copy, distribute, use or retain this message or any part of it.
If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender
immediately.

The Adjudicator’s Office computer systems will be monitored and
communications carried on them recorded, to secure the effective operation
of the system and for lawful purposes.

The Adjudicator’s Office are not liable for any personal views of the
sender.

This e-mail may have been intercepted and its information altered.

Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

Adjudicator’s Office request for internal review.

Dear Madam.

Thank you for your response.

Unfortunately it is deeply inadequate for many reasons, as I shall now outline. I have also contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), again, to ask them to investigate the matter. So now not only is the Parliamentary Ombudsman investigating the AO, but so too is the ICO.

Firstly, I requested an internal review of your response to my FOI request on 7 April 2017. Despite several follow-up reminders from me, you responded nearly twelve weeks later. Although there is no statutory deadline for undertaking internal reviews, the ICO has published guidance, which you should be aware of, that states that internal reviews should take no longer than 20 working days, depending on the complexity of the case. If the 20 working day deadline cannot be met then an authority should write to the requester to advise them of the anticipated timescale for response.

You failed to respond within 20 working days and you failed to inform me of when I might expect a response. This is a failure of your duty to respond adequately under the FOIA 2000.

Secondly, when you did eventually respond to my request for internal review you completely ignored my FOI clarification submission to you. You state that under Section 8 of the FOIA my request was invalid because it does not fulfil Section 8 (1) (c), namely that it fails to ‘describe the information requested.’ That may be your interpretation, but let’s see of the ICO agree with you.
As clarification, I asked the following:
Where in legislation, or in the AO’s published guidance or internal documents, does it state that new cases will be prioritised over closed cases where significant new information has been produced or come to light?
How long does it take the AO, on average over the last 12 months to come back to a complainant with a formal decision after a post-recommendation question after the complainant’s request has been deemed to be less of a priority than that of a new case?

You state that the above does not describe the information requested. I maintain that it does describe the information requested. You also state my request and clarification does not provide enough details to enable you to identify the information from our record. I maintain it does. Let’s see if the ICO agree.

Even if this information does not exist in the AO’s published guidance or internal documents, it should quite readily be extractable, and within the FOIA cost limits, from your records.

It may also be helpful if I explain part of the FOIA 2000 to you. Under Section 16 and the DUTY to provide advice and assistance it states:
‘It shall be the duty of a public authority to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so, to persons who propose to make, or have made, requests for information to it.’

You failed in your legal duty to do this.

You accuse me of abusing the FOIA 2000. I thoroughly refute this accusation. It is the Adjudicator’s Office that is abusing the FOIA by not responding within the legal timeframe, by not providing information to a clear request, and by not adhering to its duty to provide advice and assistance. I will remind you that the ICO is now heavily backlogged with requests for it to investigate highly deficient responses from authorities like yourself. The Adjudicator’s Office are guilty of squandering scarce public resources by its unacceptable actions.

In your internal review response you attempt to admonish me by stating the following:
‘[The FOIA] is not designed to be a vehicle for on-going and protracted correspondence relating to long outstanding grievances.’
That is your OPINION and it is not a statement of fact. In fact it is an opinion of significant error and misunderstanding. Let me explain. Members of the public sometimes use the FOIA as a last resort because an authority has refused to provide information to them voluntarily, and after protracted correspondence and pleas to do so. The FOI can act as a lever to FORCE an authority to behave decently and responsibly by providing the requested information. The MP’s expenses scandal and many other high-profile scandals in government, local authorities and other public authorities would never have been exposed without the FOIA 2000. Therefore, you are quite wrong in stating that the FOIA is not a vehicle for attempting to resolve ongoing and protracted correspondence between an individual, individuals or groups and a non-compliant, uncooperative and often hostile authority.

In your internal review, you state the following:
‘I am satisfied that we provided clear explanation of the reasons for the refusal of your request.’
You might be clear, but I’m not, and let’s see if the ICO is also clear.
The Adjudicator’s Office response of 7 April 2017 stated that my request had been refused because :
‘Requests which require yes/no answers or ask for explanation or clarification are not requests for recorded information and do not therefore fall to be answered under the FOIA.’
Some of my request did ask yes or no questions and some asked for explanation or clarification; however, some of it also asked for recorded information, and this was made explicit in my follow-up clarification sent to you, which you appear to have ignored.

So, let’s be clear: are you refusing my FOI request because it does not ask for any recorded information, or are you refusing it because it does not describe the information requested? You state that you are being clear. It is abundantly clear that you are being anything but.

I have now sent this link to the ICO to investigate. They have already contacted me with a reference number concerning my previous complaint to them about you not responding within the required legal timeframe. They informed me when I telephoned them recently that they have a backlog of cases and it may be some months before they can investigate. They will now have another complaint to investigate.

I consider that the Adjudicator’s Office are behaving in a highly irresponsible way by squandering scarce public resources in this profligate and insouciant way by not responding adequately and within the legal timeframes to legitimate, clear and reasonable requests for information.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

The ICO are now investigating.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

The Adjudicator’s Office

1 Attachment

 
Dear M Boyce
 
Attached is our reply to your request.
 
Freedom of Information Team
 

The information in this e-mail and any attachments is confidential and may
be subject to legal professional privilege. Unless you are the intended
recipient or his/her representative you are not authorised to, and must
not, read, copy, distribute, use or retain this message or any part of it.
If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender
immediately.

The Adjudicator’s Office computer systems will be monitored and
communications carried on them recorded, to secure the effective operation
of the system and for lawful purposes.

The Adjudicator’s Office are not liable for any personal views of the
sender.

This e-mail may have been intercepted and its information altered.

Dear The Adjudicator’s Office,

Do you know or even care about how much your pathetic games cost the tax-payer?

So you've had the information forced out of you at great expense to the tax-payer. Your behaviour is neither big or clever.

As for your threats to blanket ban all future FOI requests from me - go ahead and try it.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

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