Requests answered on time

Rodney Breen made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Education

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 successful.

Dear Department for Education,

I would like to know how many Freedom of Information / Environmental Information requests you have had between 1 January 2012 and 31 October 2012.

How many of these requests were answered within the 20 day time limit allowed by the Act / Regulations?

How many were not answered within this period because of delays allowed by the Act / Regulations (eg because of clarification or payment being sought, or extension because of complexity)?

How many requests were not answered within the 20 day limit, and without any legal grounds for extension?

For each of the latter requests, for how many working days was it overdue, and how many are still outstanding?

Yours faithfully,

Rodney Breen

Department for Education

Dear Mr Breen

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as
possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence
received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you
are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0072758

Thank you

Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288

Web: www.education.gov.uk

Twitter: www.twitter.com/educationgovuk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/educationgovuk

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Department for Education

Dear Mr Breen,
I am writing in response to your request for information, which was received on 2
November 2012. I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 (“the Act”).

In that request, you asked;

     I would like to know how many Freedom of Information /
     Environmental Information requests you have had between 1 January
     2012 and 31 October 2012.
    
     How many of these requests were answered within the 20 day time
     limit allowed by the Act / Regulations?
    
     How many were not answered within this period because of delays
     allowed by the Act / Regulations (eg because of clarification or
     payment being sought, or extension because of complexity)?
    
     How many requests were not answered within the 20 day limit, and
     without any legal grounds for extension?
    
     For each of the latter requests, for how many working days was it
     overdue, and how many are still outstanding?. 

I can confirm that the Department holds information relevant to your request.

However, under section 21 of the Act, we are not required to provide information
in response to a request if it is already reasonably accessible to you.

You will find the statistics from January 2012 up to the first 2 quarters of 2012
on the Ministry of Justice’s website at:

[1]http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/f...
 
[2]http://www.justice.gov.uk/statistics/foi...

The information for the 3^rd quarter (July to September) of 2012 will be published
with the third quarter statistics in December and the information for the 4^th
quarter (October to December) will be published in early 2013. This is therefore
being withheld under section 22 of the Act, which exempts information which is
held by a public authority with a view to its publication (Information intended
for future publication). The exemption in section 22 is a qualified exemption and
therefore we have considered the public interest balance. The arguments for and
against release now have been assessed and it is our view that the balance of
public interest falls in favour of the exemption in relation to the
information you have asked for. The public interest in permitting the Department
to publish information in a manner and at a time of own choosing is important. It
is part of the effective conduct of public affairs that the general publication of
information is a conveniently planned and managed activity within the reasonable
control of the Department which should not be rushed into premature publication.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to
quote the reference number below in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should make a
complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar months of the
date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by an independent review
panel, who were not involved in the original consideration of your request.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the Department, you
may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office

 
Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2012/0072758. If you need
to respond to us, please visit [3]www.education.gov.uk/contactus, and quote your
reference number.

Yours sincerely,

Dinesh Patel
LEGAL ADVISERS
[email address]
[4]www.education.gov.uk

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/f...
2. http://www.justice.gov.uk/statistics/foi...
3. http://www.education.gov.uk/contactus
4. http://www.education.gov.uk/

Dear Department for Education,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Education's handling of my FOI request 'Requests answered on time'.

For the most part, the answers you have provided were fine. However, your response did not answer one part of my request.

I asked, "For each of the latter requests [ie those which were not answered 'in time'], for how many working days was it overdue, and how many are still outstanding?"

I note that there were 77 requests in the first quarter and 50 in the second which were not answered 'in time'. You will appreciate that there is a huge difference, in practice, in overshooting the legal date by a few days and failing to respond for weeks. I would like to know, for each of these 127 requests, how many working days was the response overdue.

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

Yours faithfully,

Rodney Breen

Department for Education

Dear Mr Breen

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012 / 0080717

Regards

Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288

Web: www.education.gov.uk

Twitter: www.twitter.com/educationgovuk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/educationgovuk

Description: Description: Description: cid:image001.png@01CD10C9.42884470

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Department for Education

Dear Mr Breen,
I am writing in response to your email about your earlier request for
information, which was received on 10 December. I have dealt with your
request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”).

In that request, you asked;

     Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
     Information reviews.
    
     I am writing to request an internal review of Department for
     Education's handling of my FOI request 'Requests answered on time'.
    
     For the most part, the answers you have provided were fine.
     However, your response did not answer one part of my request.
    
     I asked, "For each of the latter requests [i.e. those which were not
     answered 'in time'], for how many working days was it overdue, and
     how many are still outstanding?"
    
     I note that there were 77 requests in the first quarter and 50 in
     the second which were not answered 'in time'. You will appreciate
     that there is a huge difference, in practice, in overshooting the
     legal date by a few days and failing to respond for weeks. I would
     like to know, for each of these 127 requests, how many working days
     was the response overdue.

I would like to clarify my response to your earlier request, before
proceeding to a formal internal review.  The Department is obliged, under
the Ministry of Justice monitoring requirements, to collect certain
information about its FoI performance.  This information is published, and
I referred you that information in my earlier response.  However, those
monitoring requirements do not require the Department to collect the
specific information you requested, and so the Department does not collect
that information and hence this is not available with the published
statistics.  I regret that I did not make this clear in my original
response.

So, although the Department holds information relating to your request, it
does not hold the information in the format you have requested i.e.  “For
each of the latter [i.e. those which were not answered in time], for how
many working days was it overdue, and how many are still outstanding?” To
obtain that information, we would need to commission a program to extract
the information from our correspondence handling system, collate it and
put it in the format requested.  This would exceed the appropriate limit
which has been specified in regulations and for central Government is set
at £600. This figure represents the estimated cost of one person spending
3½ working days in locating, retrieving and extracting the information. We
have considered how we could suggest ways of narrowing the scope of your
enquiry or for a shorter period but, due to the way the information is
held in our systems, the cost threshold would almost certainly still be
applicable. Under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act the
Department is not obliged to comply with your request under circumstances
where the cost threshold would be exceeded.

I hope this clarifies the situation, but if you have any further queries,
please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number below in
any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should
make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar
months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by
an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original
consideration of your request.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the
Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office

 
Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2012/0080717. If
you need to respond to us, please visit [1]www.education.gov.uk/contactus,
and quote your reference number.

Yours sincerely,

Dinesh Patel
Legal Adviser's Office
[email address]
[2]www.education.gov.uk

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.education.gov.uk/contactus
2. http://www.education.gov.uk/

Dear Dinesh,

Thanks very much for your response.

I am sure you will be as troubled as I am by the discovery that, despite being monitored by the Information Commissioner's Office for serious delays in responses to FOI requests, your Department is apparently clueless as to how long these requests are overdue.

In fact, I think we may have identified a key element of the problem - if your correspondence monitoring system cannot produce a simple report identifying overdue requests and how long they are overdue for, and alert staff so that they can take immediate action, it's not at all surprising that we've got into this unfortunate mess in the first place.

I am hopeful that your correspondence handling system can (a) identify requests which need to be treated under FOI/EIR, (b) specify the date received and answered, (c) track those for which additional time was legitimately required. I am also optimistic that it can generate a simple output of these data on request.

On the assumption that any half-decent database will be able to extract this basic information to a spreadsheet, I am willing in the public interest to look through it and make the calculations myself. In the event that it would be too cumbersome to separate out those requests which were overdue, I am content to look through a dataset of all FOI/EIR requests for the period and figure out which were the ones not replied to in time.

If it turns out that even this basic data analysis cannot be performed by your system, obviously we'll have to have a look at that. But don't let's go there unless we have to.

If you feel you can answer the original request on this basis, please go ahead. Otherwise I will have to insist on a review as stated. I'm sure there's a way around this, especially if it gets the Department of Education out of the Information Commissioner's bad books.

Best regards,

Rodney Breen

Department for Education

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Breen,
I am writing in response to your further email of 4 January 2013 about your earlier request
for information. I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(“the Act”).

We have revisited your original request for information “For each of the latter [i.e. those
which were not answered in time], for how many working days was it overdue, and how many are
still outstanding?”  We have been able to extract this information held from our
correspondence handling system. This information is attached.

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by copyright. You are free to use
it for your own purposes, including for private study and non-commercial research, and for
any other purpose authorised by an exception in current copyright law. Documents (except
photographs) can be also used in the UK without requiring permission for the purposes of
news reporting. Any other re-use, for example commercial publication, would require the
permission of the copyright holder.

Most documents produced by a government department or agency will be protected by Crown
Copyright. Most Crown copyright information can be re-used under the Open Government Licence
([1]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...). For information about
the OGL and about re-using Crown Copyright information please see The National Archives
website
-[2]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...

If you have any further queries, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference
number below in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should make a complaint
to the Department by writing to me within two calendar months of the date of this letter. 
Your complaint will be considered by an independent review panel, who were not involved in
the original consideration of your request.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the Department, you may then
contact the Information Commissioner’s Office

 
Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2013/0000649. If you need to respond
to us, please visit [3]www.education.gov.uk/contactus, and quote your reference number.

Yours sincerely,

Dinesh Patel
LEGAL ADVISERS
[email address]
[4]www.education.gov.uk

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

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blocked::http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...
2. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
blocked::http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
3. http://www.education.gov.uk/contactus
4. http://www.education.gov.uk/