Policy on responding to requests for information and the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Mr James made this Freedom of Information request to Office of Communications

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 Office of Communications,

Please may I have a copy of your policy on responding to requests for information. In particular when and when not to handle them as requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Thanks,

Mr James

Mr James left an annotation ()

In their response to my previous request they explicitly stated that it wasn't treated as a request under the FOI act.

I'm interested to know why not. Was does that get them out of? Is it just publishing the log? Or for their statistics? Or liability?

AIUI the Information Commisioner says that all requests for information should be treated as requests under the act.

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

Julia Snape, Office of Communications

Dear Mr James

Thank you for your request for information dated 26 August about our policy on responding to requests for information which we have considered under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We do not hold a policy document that outlines this. Our approach is to advise all colleagues that they should deal with information requests under the most appropriate legislation. Where a request is made in the usual course of business and the information is to be provided, colleagues are advised that they can handle the request on a business as usual (BAU) basis. This is of course a matter of judgement and we add at the bottom of BAU responses that if the requestor feels it should have been handled as a Freedom of Information (FOI) request then they should contact us.

I hope this information is helpful.

Kind regards
Julia

If you are unhappy with the response or level of service you have received in relation to your request from Ofcom, you may ask for an internal review. If you ask us for an internal review of our decision, it will be treated as a formal complaint and will be subject to an independent review within Ofcom. We will acknowledge the complaint and inform you of the date by which you might expect to be told the outcome.
The following outcomes are possible:
• the original decision is upheld; or
• the original decision is reversed or modified.
Timing
If you wish to exercise your right to an internal review you should contact us within two months of the date of this letter. There is no statutory deadline for undertaking internal reviews and it will depend upon the complexity of the case. However, we aim to conclude all such reviews within 20 working days, and up to 40 working days in exception cases. We will keep you informed of the progress of any such review. If you wish to request an internal review, you should contact:
Graham Howell
The Secretary to the Corporation
Ofcom
Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HA
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

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Dear Office of Communications,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Office of Communications's handling of my FOI request 'Policy on responding to requests for information and the Freedom of Information Act 2000'.

I understand your response to mean that staff handling requests for information are told verbally how to handle the requests and don't have any written material to refer to. If that is the case then of course your response was correct as it isn't written down.

However, I find it unlikely that you don't have any documentation regarding how to handle requests for information. For example do you not have a training manual that discusses the Information Commisioner's advice in...

http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/free...

If you don't, then I think you should as I notice that your staff are sending out acknowledgement responses that look like FOI responses but don't mention the act. This is itself against the IC's advice. eg...

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

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

Yours faithfully,

Mr James

Nige Coleman left an annotation ()

Ofcom, despite being one of the most affluent regulators (CE £320k PA, average employee salary £70k) is also profoundly lazy and incompetent. They operate in a self-serving manner, only taking action when they believe it will enhance their public image and ignoring their statutory duty when it does not, often resulting in a breach of human rights.

Ofcom regularly break the law (frequent breaches of the DPA, failure to take enforcement action on behalf of authorised users of the radio spectrum; they gave me the name and address of the primary perpetrator in my Ofcom case in a shocking breach of the DPA).On whatdotheyknow you will see frequent misses in the required time-scale, obfuscation and schoolboy errors.

Take https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/o... for example. Ofcom ignore the request beyond the deadline. The submitter requires an internal review because they have broken the law. Ofcom then reply with a standard response, ignoring the requirement for an internal review. Ofcom next make an outlandish response: they apologise for sending the previous response in error then state they had no record of the FOIA. How then could they have responded in the previous message if they had no record of his request! Ofcom at no point conducted an internal review as required. Ofcom is not fit for purpose and should be dissolved without delay.

It may interest you to know that the submitter of the FOIA linked above has contacted me privately with the court case number and demonstrated that Ofcom have LIED in their eventual response to the FOIA! . . Their performance is shameful.

Information Requests, Office of Communications

1 Attachment

Dear Mr James

Thank you for your request for an internal review. Please find attached Ofcom's response.

Kind Regards

Information Requests

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Nige Coleman left an annotation ()

Please see 5b below. Ofcom's frequent refusal to provide policy upon request on whatdotheyknow is in breach of the the Lord Chancellor's COP.

Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice

Part 1: Records Management
5 Summary of recommended good practice in records management
Good practice in records management is made up of a number of key elements. The following list summarises the good practice recommended in Part 1 of the Code. Guidance on each element is given in sections 6-14 of this Part.
a) Authorities should have in place organisational arrangements that support records management (see section 6);
b) Authorities should have in place a records management policy, either as a separate policy or as part of a wider information or knowledge management policy (see section 7);
c) Authorities should ensure they keep the records they will need for business, regulatory, legal and accountability purposes (see section 8);
d) Authorities should keep their records in systems that enable records to be stored and retrieved as necessary (see section 9);
e) Authorities should know what records they hold and where they are, and should ensure that they remain usable for as long as they are required (see section 10);
f) Authorities should ensure that records are stored securely and that access to them is controlled (see section 11);
g) Authorities should define how long they need to keep particular records, should dispose of them when they are no longer needed and should be able to explain why records are no longer held (see section 12);
h) Authorities should ensure that records shared with other bodies or held on their behalf by other bodies are managed in accordance with the Code (see section 13);
i) Authorities should monitor compliance with the Code and assess the overall effectiveness of the programme (see section 14).

Mark Salter left an annotation ()

"
d) Authorities should keep their records in systems that enable records to be stored and retrieved as necessary (see section 9);
"

Ofcom consistently seem to pick software and systems that do not provide data access/retrieval without extensive manual effort - makes me wonder why/how.

:-(

Dear Information Requests,

Thank you for your response to my request for an internal review.

Your quote sounds like a policy to me. I understand that you probably have a specific meaning for the word 'policy' but I think you should be more liberal in your interpretation of the word when dealing with requests from outside your regulatory bubble.

Yours sincerely,

Mr James