Responsibilities between the PHSO and the Cabinet Office

E. Colville made this Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office

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.

To FOI Team Cabinet Office:

Under the FOIA the following information is requested:

1. Copy of the Guidance to government departments on working with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman ("Ombudsman") (covering each year 2008 to date).

2. Copy of the central list of departmental contacts tasked with ensuring that the Ombudsman receives prompt and comprehensive response to requests for information and documents (for each year 2008 to date).

3. Minutes of two monthly liaision meetings between the Ombudsman and the Cabinet Office (for each year 2008 to date)

4. List of named Permanent Secretary designated as the "Ombudsman Champion" (for each year 2007 to date).

Yours faithfully,

E. Colville

FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    Freedom of Information request Responsibilities between the PHSO and the Cabinet Office.txt

    2K Download View as HTML

 

 

CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE:  FOI318419

Dear E. COLVILLE

Thank you for your request for information. Your request was received
on 16/9/2013 and is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

This email is just a short acknowledgement of your request.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the FOI team.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Knowledge and Information Management Unit

Cabinet Office

E: [1][Cabinet Office request email]

 

 

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Dear FOI Team,

By law, the Cabinet Office should normally have responded promptly and by 11 October 2013 to my FOI request. As it is now overdue you are asked to respond no later than the next business day, i.e. Monday 14 October 2013.

Yours sincerely,

E. Colville

Dear FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

Kindly let me know when you expect to be able to answer this delayed information request.

Yours sincerely,

E. Colville

Dear FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

This is to advise that on 21 October 2013 I referred the matter of your unexplained delay in responding to my FOI request to the Information Commissioner's Office.

My request was premised on the Statement of Responsibility between the CO, the PHSO and others - see for example here:
http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/__data/asset...

On 15 October 2013 I also drew the matter of the delay to the attention of the Public Administration Select Committee, who, as part of their on-going Inquiry: Complaints and the Parliamentary Ombudsman service, on 16 October took evidence from a Cabinet Office minister.

On 23 November I and others who have submitted evidence to that Inquiry have been invited to meet the Committee. It would be helpful for me and the other participants to have been sighted on the requested material well in advance of that date.

I therefore trust you will give this overdue request your prompt attention.

Yours sincerely,

E. Colville

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Today, Nov. 5, I received a letter from the ICO informing they have written to the Cabinet Office reminding them of their responsibilities under the FOIA and allowing them a further 10 working days from today in which to answer my request. This potentially will represent 5 weeks in excess of legal compliance requirements.

Dear Cabinet Office,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Cabinet Office's handling of my FOI request 'Responsibilities between the PHSO and the Cabinet Office'.

This request is long overdue. It has been the subject of an ICO direction sent to the CO on 5 November 2013. It required the CO to respond within 10 days. The CO has ignored that direction. As of today the ICO is formally dealing with that further contravention.

Details of my FOI request are available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r...

Yours faithfully,

E. Colville

E. Colville left an annotation ()

The ICO do not have a grip on what they are doing as regards their handling of this FOIA request.

On 5 Nov 2013 this is what they wrote:

"Thank you for your correspondence dated 21st October, in which you complain about the above public authority’s failure to respond to your information request.

When considering complaints about delayed or failed responses to information requests our priority is to ensure requesters receive a response as quickly as possible where one has not been provided, and to monitor any persistent trends which might indicate that a public authority is routinely failing to respond within the statutory timeframe.

We monitor complaints where a serious contravention of section 10 is recorded and where persistent contraventions occur we will consider placing a public authority on our monitoring programme (http://www.ico.org.uk/what_we_cover/prom... ).

I have written to the public authority to provide them with a copy of your original request, reminding them of their responsibilities and asking them to respond to you within 10 working days of receiving our email. I attach a copy of my email to the public authority for your information. If you do not receive any response within 10 working days, please contact us.

The late response will be recorded and as described above will form part of our on-going activity to consider the performance of public authorities and the Freedom of Information Act.

If the public authority responds and refuses to release the information you have asked for and you are dissatisfied, you may, after exhausting their internal complaints procedure, complain to us again.

Thank you for bringing these concerns to the attention of the Information Commissioner.
___________

By email to the ICO of 21 Nov. I wrote:

"Further to your letter of 5th November I am reverting to let you know that the Cabinet Office has ignored the IC's direction of 5th November to respond to my information request within 10 business days.

Please advise what action the IC will now take and what, if any other action, I should take at this time"

The ICO's reply today states:

"Your FOIA request to the Cabinet Office (‘the CO’)

I am writing to inform you that your case referenced above has now been allocated to me to investigate. This letter will explain how I intend to do this....

What happens now

Where possible the Information Commissioner prefers complaints to be resolved informally and we ask both parties to be open to compromise. With this in mind, I have written to the public authority and ask it to provide its response within 10 working days.

[...]

The Cabinet Office (‘the CO’) responded with an acknowledgement on 16 September 2013 and has not yet provided a substantive response.

Scope of the case

I understand that after 62 working days the CO has had ample opportunity to respond. However, I consider that it is worthwhile to allow a further 10 days before drafting a decision notice. A notice finding the CO in breach of section 10 and ordering a response would allow 28 days for the response. If the CO has not responded by 23 December 2013 a notice will be drafted in January."

This is either regulatory incompetence or an act of bath faith by the ICO.

FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

1 Attachment

 

 

Please find attached the reply to your recent FOI request

 

 

 

Regards

 

 

FOI Team

1 Horse Guards Road

London

SW1A 2HQ

 

Email – [1][Cabinet Office request email]

 

 

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Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Correction :

For 'public interest.' Read 'our interest.'

Ie.Its in our interest that you don't find out what's going on.

E. Colville left an annotation ()

This was the ICO's response to my complaint against the Cabinet Office:-

"14 January 2014 PROTECT

CASE REF: FS50517287

Dear Ms Colville,

Further to our correspondence on 10 December 2013 the Cabinet Office ('CO') posted its response on 12 December 2013.

I note that the WDTK website is still waiting for you to acknowledge the response.

As the CO has responded, this case will be closed pending your satisfaction and your decision on whether to request an internal review. If you request a review, following receipt of the review you may contact the ICO again quoting the above reference number. A fresh case reference will be allocated at that time.

In the meantime the excessive time taken to provide the response has been recorded with the case officers responsible for monitoring the performance of the CO in respect of its duty to comply with the FOIA.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Hughes
Case Officer"

ICO "monitoring" is clearly of little use when the CO flaunts legal timeframes for responses with monotonous regularity as this site plainly reveals.
____________________________________________________________________

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

'However, it is also in the public interest for Ministers and officials to be able to have confidential dialogue in the execution of their duties and for them to exchange views freely and frankly with external bodies. It is also important that Minsiters can receive advice from officials and experts. This advice must be detailed and candid if it is to be of value. For all of this to occur, officials must be free of any inhibitions that might interfere with their ability to offer comprehensive input based on free and frank discussion with external stakeholders. If such information were to be disclosed, sensitive issues might not be able to be raised in the future, including those relating to Ombudsman cases, for fear that information about such issues might be disclosed and be exposed prematurely to public scrutiny and comment. Disclosures of the detail of these exchanges would undermine the quality and nature of this dialogue in the future and would not be in the public interest.'

Well that very interesting ....and certainly tells us that the private interests of stakeholders outweigh those of the public.

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

It is vitally important to take these people to task. The ICO have proved over and over again, that they are totally ineffective when it comes to making sure the Freedom of Information Act is instituted. I feel that these matters should be taken to a Court, to show everyone concerned that it is a law, that should be adhered to. This lack of transparency from the Cabinet Office and its delay in replying to you is unacceptable.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Monitoring of timeliness
Monitored authorities

The Information Commissioner’s Office is currently monitoring the following authorities’ timeliness in responding to requests for information:

Cabinet Office

Crown Prosecution Service

Hackney Council

The monitoring period will run from 1 January to 31 March 2014.

Dear Cabinet Office,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Cabinet Office's handling of my FOI request 'Responsibilities between the PHSO and the Cabinet Office'.

Your response states:

"The Cabinet Office does not hold the central list of departmental contacts referred to in your request. The Cabinet Office liaises with the departmental Permanent Secretary offices on Ombudsman related matters"

This answer is found to be incorrect. Earlier versions of the Statement of Responsibilities signed by the Ombudsman and the Cabinet Office in 2007 and 2009 respectively state :

""The Cabinet Office has the following specific policy and liaison responsibilities: [....]

" MAINTAINING A CENTRAL LIST of DEPARTMENTAL CONTACTS TASKED WITH ENSURING THAT THE OMBUDSMAN RECEIVES PROMPT AND COMPREHENSIVE RESPONSES TO REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTS. (pg.3)"

That paragraph was omitted from the current Statement of Responsibilities dated October 2011 which is available here:
http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/__data/asset...

You have further stated that: -

"The Cabinet Office does not hold a list of Ombudsman Champions over the period requested. The current Ombudsman Champion is Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary, DWP"

Again, this statement is found to be incorrect by reference to the 2007 and 2009 versions of the Statement. They provide that: -

"The Cabinet Office has the following specific policy and liaison responsibilities: [....]

"ENSURING THAT A NAMED PERMANENT SECRETARY IS DESIGNATED AS THE "OMBUDSMAN CHAMPION" AND WORKING WITH THE OMBUDSMAN"

Accordingly, the Cabinet Office must hold information - whether or not in a "list" or any other format - to answer this part of my request.

Finally, I challenge the decision to invoke s.36 provisions to withhold information responding to part 3 of my request relating to minutes of meetings between the Cabinet Office and Ombudsman.

The legislation and Statement of Responsibilities relating to the PHSO provide that the role of the PHSO is to provide a service to the public by undertaking to provide independent investigations into complaints that government departments , a range of other public bodies in the UK, and the NHS in England have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service.

The Ombudsman's "independence" and "impartiality" are compromised and undermined where the Ombudsman holds private meetings with the Cabinet Office a minimum of once every two months and discusses matters about which the public have no information. The Ombudsman is accountable for her service to the public through Parliament, not the Cabinet Office. It is therefore in the public interest that the minutes of meetings (redacted as appropriate) should be disclosed, particularly in circumstances where the information is of historic value.

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,

E. Colville

FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    Internal review of Freedom of Information request Responsibilities between the PHSO and the Cabinet Office.txt

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CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE:  IR318419

Dear E. COLVILLE

Thank you for your request for an internal review. Your request was
received on 31/1/2014 and is being dealt with under the terms of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000.

This email is just a short acknowledgement of your request.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the FOI team.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Knowledge and Information Management Unit

Cabinet Office

E: [1][Cabinet Office request email]

 

 

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E. Colville left an annotation ()

The ICO's 'monitoring' of the Cabinet Office appears to be paying dividends.

This time round an acknowledgement issued within one hour of receipt of my request for IR !

Dear FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

Noting that the Cabinet Office has an observed propensity for taking 40 days to respond to internal review requests; further noting the Cabinet Office is subject to an ICO monitoring measure at this time, I am writing in relation to my request for internal review, received and assigned reference IR318419 on 31/01/14, to remind you of the Commissioner's Good Practice Guide (No. 5) covering time limits on carrying out internal reviews. It provides:

"The Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing
an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request
for review."

It further provides:

"There may be a small number of cases which involve exceptional
circumstances where it may be reasonable to take longer. In those
circumstances, the public authority should, as a matter of good
practice, notify the requester and explain why more time is
needed."

In prompting you with this note there is a reasonable expectation there will be no delay beyond 28/02/14 responding to my request, consistent with the Commissioner's Good Practice Guide.

Yours sincerely,

E. Colville

Dear FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

It is with disappointment that I note you have not completed an internal review of IR318419 within 20 days from the date of receipt on 31 January 2014, nor have you notified me as to why more time is required, despite my letter dated 21 February 2014.

Could you please provide me with an explanation for the delay.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

E. Colville

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Referred to ICO

D. Speers left an annotation ()

All best wishes.

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Thank you D. Speers. When dealing with the dark powers and authorities that govern us, every good wish in support is hugely welcome.

On "lists" here is ICO guidance specifically targeted at public authorities:

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

If it doesn't want to come unstuck Cabinet Office really needs to learn that honesty is always the best policy.

So why is the Cabinet Office continuing to procrastinate.....?

E. Colville left an annotation ()

On 17th March 2014 ICO responded in a letter which states:

"Case Reference Number FS50533980

Dear Ms Colville

Information request to the Cabinet Office

Thank you for your correspondence dated 7 March 2014, in which you complain about the time taken for the Cabinet Office to carry out an internal review that you requested on 31 January 2014.

The right to complain to the Information Commissioner is given under section 50 of the Act. However, a complaint may be deemed ineligible under section 50, if for example:

There is an undue delay before bringing a complaint to our attention, or;
You have not exhausted any complaints procedure which is provided by the public authority.

Therefore, before accepting complaints, the Commissioner generally expects complainants to allow public authorities the opportunity to respond to their appeal for a review of the handling of or decision regarding their FOI request.

Although there is no statutory time set out in the Act within which public authorities must complete a review, the Commissioner has issued guidance on this matter (Good Practice Guidance 5). The Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review, and in no case should the total time taken exceed 40 working days.

I have written to the Cabinet Office to provide them with a copy of your request for internal review and recommend that they issue you with an internal review decision within 20 working days from the date of receipt of our letter. I enclose a copy for your information.

From my letter to the Cabinet Office you will see that significant or repeated unreasonable delays in dealing with internal reviews by public authorities are monitored and where appropriate further action may be taken.

This case has now been closed, however if you do not receive a response within 20 working days please contact us quoting the reference number on this letter.

If you remain dissatisfied after having exhausted the Cabinet Office’s internal review process and would like us to look into the matter, please contact us quoting the reference number on this letter and providing us with a copy of the internal review decision.

If we can be of any further assistance please contact me on the number below, quoting your case reference number. You may also find some useful information on our website at www.ico.org.uk."

Dear FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

Your response did not identify who gave the s.36 'qualified person's' opinion relating to this request. Please advise the name and job title of the person who did.

Yours sincerely,

E. Colville

Dear FOI Team - Cabinet Office [Restricted],

Your response did not identify who gave the s.36 'qualified person's' opinion relating to this request. Please advise the name and job title of the person who did.

Yours sincerely,

E. Colville

E. Colville left an annotation ()

A new Tribunal Decision published today provides further helpful insights on s.36 considerations, including the reasonableness of the qualified person's opinion.

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...

E. Colville left an annotation ()

I am re-posting the broken link to Tribunal Decision EA/2013/0145, 148 and 149, promulgated on 24th.March, 2014 dealing with FOIA s.36 exemptions:-

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Interesting to note how good Cabinet Office Minutes should be prepared:-
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/5...

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Principles discussed in the linked request to the Parliamentary Ombudsman for minutes/discussion notes of formal meetings routinely held between the Ombudsman and the Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) would appear to be equally applicable to my request to the Cabinet Office:-
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

E. Colville left an annotation ()

I have today written to the ICO:-

" In your letter dated 17.03.14 responding to mine of 07.03.14 (both reproduced here: whatdotheyknow.com/request/responsibilities_between_the_phs#comment-48484) you wrote:

"The Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review, and in no case should the total time taken exceed 40 working days." (underlining mine)

On a plain and literal interpretation the reckoning of the stipulated "40 days" in relation to my request for Internal Review to the Cabinet Office was reached on 28.03.14 and has now been exceeded without any decision.

Your letter of 17.03.14 also stated: "I have written to the Cabinet Office to provide them with a copy of your request for internal review [dated 31.01.14] and recommend that they issue you with an internal review decision within 20 working days from the date of receipt of our letter [also dated 17.01.14].

The effect of this ICO direction means that the Cabinet Office has been given until 17.04.14 to issue their decision which exceeds the stipulated "40 days".

Was this excess of time a mistake on the part of the ICO? If not, would you please explain why the direction is not in compliance with the rules the Commissioner has established under the FOI Act."

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

For all of this to occur, officials must be free of any inhibitions that might interfere with their ability to offer comprehensive input based on free and frank discussion with external stakeholders....

::::::

So who exactly is the 'stakeholder' in this ?

I asked the PHSO via a FoI and the department said that there was no list of stakeholders. And that practically anyone with an interest, such as a complainant , could be a stakeholder.

Therefore, as stakeholders ourselves... Having been invited to give evidence to PASC on our knowledge of the PHSO, we would like to know what is going on in these meetings with a 'free and frank discussion'' of what has transpired.

Because, presumably, anything contentious is covered in the private meetings that have been held between Bernard Jenkin and Dame Julie Mellor.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

We must always be considered the main stakeholders as we pay for public services!
Sorry Jt Oakley your name is still appearing instead of mine. Should read D.Speers

E. Colville left an annotation ()

For the avoidance of any doubt here are The National Archive links to the 2007 and 2009 Statement of Responsibility. See paragraph 8: "The Ombudsman and the Cabinet Office" -

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.u...

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.u...

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

D.Speers posted this NOT Jt Oakley as displayed (there appears to be a technical glitch with this account, which I have made WDTK aware of(a couple of times!) To date I have heard nothing more.

The public are the main stakeholders and MUST be included in all decisions

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

No need to apologise Dee....

As long as you cut out the bad language and libelling the more annoying members of the PHSO staff, I am happy.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Will do! Thanks Jt

Its certainly odd that the WDTK team contact me if they feel annotations are outside remit but dont contact me when I ask them too!
Still its a great site run by volunteers so I cant really complain!

FOI Team - Cabinet Office,

1 Attachment

 

 

Please find attached the reply to your recent Internal Review request

 

 

 

Regards

 

 

FOI Team

1 Horse Guards Road

London

SW1A 2HQ

 

Email – [1][Cabinet Office request email]

 

 

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