report on ISUS grants program

ScarletPimpernel made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

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 refused by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Following concerns raised by a whistleblower, Wirral Council's auditors were commissioned to write two reports to Wirral Council looking into the whistleblower's concerns.

The executive summary of the Grant Thornton report into the BIG (business investment grants) was published on your website http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents... .

However another report was also commissioned into the ISUS (Intensive Startup Support) program again from Grant Thornton.

Please could you supply:-

(a) a copy of Grant Thornton's report to Wirral Council into the ISUS program,

(b) if this is not possible the Executive Summary of Grant Thornton's report into the ISUS program or

(c) if neither is possible in full then a redacted copy of both the above (with reasons behind the redactions)?

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Good Morning

 

Thank you for your request below,  Wirral Council can confirm it is not
possible, at this moment in time, to make available copies of the report
into ISUS that was produced by Grant Thornton following their
investigations, either in full or in a redacted format, as the report,
which has been reported previously, has been handed over to the Police for
their consideration, in accordance with the recommendations contained
within the report.

As such any disclosures either in full or in part are not appropriate at
this time, until the Police have concluded their enquiries or determined
that no further action should be taken, for fear of compromising further
actions that may result as a consequence of that report.  As such, the
Council consider this information to be exempt under Section 30 of the
Freedom of Information Act, information held regarding Investigations or
Proceedings conducted by Public Authorities.

 

Additional detail on this exemption is provided below:-

 

Section 30 - Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Public
Authorities the information requested is exempt if the Public Body is
under a duty to carry out an investigation or has a power to conduct
proceedings as described below.

 

The exemption is divided into two parts:-

Particular investigations or prosecutions - the first part covers
information which has at any time been held by a public authority for any
of the following purposes.

·         Investigations into whether a person should be charged with an
offence.

·         Investigations into whether a person charged with an offence is
guilty of it.

·         Investigations which may lead the authority to initiate Criminal
Proceedings.

·         Criminal proceedings.

The phrase "at any time" means that information is exempt if it relates to
an ongoing, closed or abandoned investigation.

 

This part of the exemption does not apply to information which is thirty
years old or more, when it is classed as a historical record.

 

I hope it will not be necessary  however you have the right under Section
17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to ask for an internal review of
the refusal of the information requested.  Please direct any request for
an internal review to [1][Wirral Borough Council request email] and your request
will be allocated for review.

 

You do also have the right to complain to the information Commissioner, if
you are dissatisfied with the outcome of any internal review, whose office
is situated at:

 

 

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire SK9 5AF

Tel: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45

Fax: 01625 524510

[2]www.ico.gov.uk  [3]http://www.ico.gov.uk/

 

Thank you for your enquiry, kind regards

 

Tracy O'Hare

Information Management

Transformation and Resources

Wirral Council

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to  be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free  to
use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research  you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for 
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, 
may involve licensing and the application of a charge.

 

 

 

 

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Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'report on ISUS grants program'.

Thank you for your response to my request for the ISUS report produced by the Council's auditors Grant Thornton.

For the purposes of clarity and to prevent any misunderstandings I include a copy of s.30 (apart from ss.6 which only applies to Scotland) in my request for an internal review, which is below.

30 Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities.

(1)Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it has at any time been held by the authority for the purposes of—

(a)any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct with a view to it being ascertained—

(i)whether a person should be charged with an offence, or

(ii)whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it,

(b)any investigation which is conducted by the authority and in the circumstances may lead to a decision by the authority to institute criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct, or

(c)any criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct.

(2)Information held by a public authority is exempt information if—

(a)it was obtained or recorded by the authority for the purposes of its functions relating to—

(i)investigations falling within subsection (1)(a) or (b),

(ii)criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct,

(iii)investigations (other than investigations falling within subsection (1)(a) or (b)) which are conducted by the authority for any of the purposes specified in section 31(2) and either by virtue of Her Majesty’s prerogative or by virtue of powers conferred by or under any enactment, or

(iv)civil proceedings which are brought by or on behalf of the authority and arise out of such investigations, and

(b)it relates to the obtaining of information from confidential sources.

(3)The duty to confirm or deny does not arise in relation to information which is (or if it were held by the public authority would be) exempt information by virtue of subsection (1) or (2).

(4)In relation to the institution or conduct of criminal proceedings or the power to conduct them, references in subsection (1)(b) or (c) and subsection (2)(a) to the public authority include references—

(a)to any officer of the authority,
(b)in the case of a government department other than a Northern Ireland department, to the Minister of the Crown in charge of the department, and
(c)in the case of a Northern Ireland department, to the Northern Ireland Minister in charge of the department.

[F1(5)In this section—
“criminal proceedings” includes service law proceedings (as defined by section 324(5) of the Armed Forces Act 2006);
“offence” includes a service offence (as defined by section 50 of that Act).]

Firstly I will point out that this investigation was not conducted by Wirral in its role as a public authority but by the Council's auditors Grant Thornton Limited. Wirral Council is also not deciding to institute criminal proceedings, therefore the report cannot be classed as falling with ss. 1(a)(i) or (ii) you are leaving this decision to the police instead.

Guidance here on the application of the s.30 exemption available here http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/info... on the Ministry of Justice's website states "Section 30 can only be relied on by an authority which itself exercises one of the investigation or litigation functions that are specified in the exemption." and "Section 30 is a qualified exemption and is therefore subject to the public interest test."

As the investigation was done by Grant Thornton Ltd (not by Wirral Council) and a decision to charge (if one is made) would be made by Merseyside Police in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service it would seem that Wirral Council has neither exercised an investigation or litigation function.

Part 1(b) and 1(c) do not apply as Wirral Council has decided that this decision be made instead by the police/CPS.

Therefore 2(a)(i) and 2(a)(ii) also do not apply either.

Section 2(a)(iii) refers to 31(2) which in this case states "to the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law", yet if the investigation had determined this then why wouldn't Wirral Council institute civil or criminal proceedings itself?

Civil proceedings have not been mentioned, therefore ss. 2(4) does not apply.

The rest of s.30 also doesn't give any grounds for refusing the request.

S.30 is a qualified objection subject to a public interest test. Therefore Wirral Council is obliged to conduct a public interest test of the factors in favour of and against disclosure.

The reasons given in refusing this request do not say a public interest test was conducted and don't give any reasons in favour of disclosure. The investigations into the BIG/ISUS programs by Grant Thornton have so far cost £50,000 and it would increase confidence in the investigation process if there was more transparency especially as (as has already been acknowledge in relation to the BIG report) that a procedural failure or mismanagement occurred meaning there is a public interest in holding Wirral Council accountable for this.

The investigation has concluded by Grant Thornton sending its report to Wirral Council. Therefore there is a public interest in knowing how the decision to refer it to Merseyside Police was reached by Wirral Council.

I am therefore requesting an internal review of the decision to refuse my request on grounds that the information was exempt under s.30, because your response does not include details of or refer to a public interest test and there are many arguments in favour of disclosure as outlined above, which have by your response not even been considered when applying this exemption.

I look forward to your response in the near future.

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

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Good Afternoon,

 

Thank you for your recent request for an Internal Review below. I
apologise for the slight delay in responding to you.

 

Please see attachment which is Council’s response to your request.

 

Kind Regards

 

Sent on behalf of

 

Jane Corrin

Information and Central Services Manager

Transformation and Resources

Wirral Council

[1][email address]

 

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to
use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

 

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