Monitoring of internal review time limits best practice

The request was partially successful.

Dear Information Commissioner’s Office,

In your document

"Freedom of Information Good Practice Guidance No. 5
Time limits on carrying out internal reviews following requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000"

you stated:

"• a complaints procedure should be designed to allow prompt
determination of complaints (para 39)
• target times should be set for dealing with complaints (para 42).
• the code also recommends that the target times are reviewed regularly
and that each authority should publish them together with information
on its success in meeting those targets.
• there is also an implied recommendation, supported by guidance
issued by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, that the
complainant should be kept fully informed throughout the review
process.
The Commissioner supports these recommendations and intends, from time
to time, to monitor conformity with them."

You intended "from time to time, to monitor" public bodies' conformity with the recommendations to set target times for dealing with complaints, to publish those times and statistics on its success in meeting ehose targets, and to keep requesters fully infomed throughout the review process.

That guidance has now been in place for 10 years. Please tell me what you have done to monitor public bodies' conformity with those recommendations over the past 10 years.

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

AccessICOinformation, Information Commissioner’s Office

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office. We confirm
that we have received your correspondence.

 

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Information Commissioner’s Office

24 July 2017

 

Case Reference Number IRQ0688165

 

Dear Mr Paulley

Information request
 
I write in response to your email of 27 June 2017 in which you submitted a
request for information to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Your request has been dealt with in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
 
Your request
 
“In your document

"Freedom of Information Good Practice Guidance No. 5 Time limits on
carrying out internal reviews following requests for information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000"

you stated:

"? a complaints procedure should be designed to allow prompt determination
of complaints (para 39) ? target times should be set for dealing with
complaints (para 42).
? the code also recommends that the target times are reviewed regularly
and that each authority should publish them together with information on
its success in meeting those targets.
? there is also an implied recommendation, supported by guidance issued by
the Department for Constitutional Affairs, that the complainant should be
kept fully informed throughout the review process.
The Commissioner supports these recommendations and intends, from time to
time, to monitor conformity with them."

You intended "from time to time, to monitor" public bodies' conformity
with the recommendations to set target times for dealing with complaints,
to publish those times and statistics on its success in meeting ehose
targets, and to keep requesters fully infomed throughout the review
process.

That guidance has now been in place for 10 years. Please tell me what you
have done to monitor public bodies' conformity with those recommendations
over the past 10 years.”
 
Our response

I can confirm we hold some information that falls in the scope of your
request.
 
Firstly, it may be helpful to note that the "Freedom of Information Good
Practice Guidance No. 5” is no longer current. It was withdrawn in 2012 as
part of our project to review our FOIA guidance. The ICO’s current
guidance on the subject of internal reviews can be found in our ‘Guide to
Freedom Information’ in the ‘What if the requester is unhappy with the
outcome?’ section:
[1]https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui...
 
As you may be aware there is no statutory requirement within the Act for
public authorities to provide a response to a request for internal review
within 20 days, rather this is a recommendation for good practice. There
are over one hundred thousand public authorities who are subject to the
FOIA and we do not have the resources to monitor the practices of all
authorities who are subject to it. We must target our resources
appropriately, and generally any monitoring of internal review performance
only occurs when a public authority is placed into formal ‘Monitoring’. It
may also be highlighted and commented on, if relevant, by case officers
during the course of any section 50 complaint investigations we undertake.
However, as mentioned above, because this is not a statutory requirement,
this will usually be in the ‘other matters’ section of a decision notice
and will not form part of the formal decision.   
 
More information about monitoring can be found here:
[2]https://ico.org.uk/action-weve-taken/mon...
 
However, although internal review timeliness will generally be
considered during the monitoring period and public authorities are
required to provide information in relation to this issue; as it is a good
practice matter it is not determinative in whether a monitoring case is
closed or not (or whether a public authority is placed into monitoring in
the first place). This is because the primary focus of monitoring is on
the timeliness of responses to freedom of information requests, as this is
a statutory obligation.
 
In addition to this, prior to the guidance you reference being withdrawn,
a number of ‘practice recommendations’ were issued to public authorities
that addressed issues including internal review performance.
 
You can view these recommendations via the National Archives instances of
our website, for instance here:
 
[3]http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.u...
 
[4]http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.u...
 
Internal reviews are also considered in our broader central government
sector monitoring report and our police sector monitoring report:
 
[5]https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...
 
[6]https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...
 
This concludes our response to your request. I hope the information
provided is helpful.
 
Review Procedure

If you are not satisfied that your request for information has been dealt
with correctly, please write to the Information Access Team at the address
below, reply directly to this email (with the reference number contained
within the square brackets left intact), or email us at
[7][ICO request email], quoting the reference number
IRQ0688165.

Your request for a 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.

Ultimately if you are not satisfied that your request for information 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
relevant legislation.  To make such an application, please write to our
Customer Contact Team at the address below, or visit the ‘Report a
Concern’ section of our website.
 
A copy of our review procedure is available here
[8]https://ico.org.uk/media/about-the-ico/p...
 
Yours sincerely

Ian Goddard
Lead Information Access Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF
T. 01625 545823  F. 01625 524510  [9]ico.org.uk  [10]twitter.com/iconews
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The ICO's mission is to uphold information rights in the public interest.
To find out more about our work please visit our website, or subscribe to
our e-newsletter at ico.org.uk/newsletter.

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2. https://ico.org.uk/action-weve-taken/mon...
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5. https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...
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8. https://ico.org.uk/media/about-the-ico/p...
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