Spend data over £25,000

Janine Baker made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Exiting the European Union

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 Sirs

I have been trying to find transparency data for your department but could not track it down on GOV.UK. Please can you provide details of your department's spend over £25,000 since July 2016 or alternatively provide me with a link to where this is published online.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Ms Baker, 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request, reference
number DEX000300. We will now respond to your request in line with the FOI
Act. 
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

Correspondence Unit

[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png [2]line.png 9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG

E: [3][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter:
@DExEUgov

show quoted sections

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Baker, 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request, reference
number DEX000300. Please find our attached response.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

Correspondence Unit

[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png [2]line.png 9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG

E: [3][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter:
@DExEUgov

show quoted sections

Dear Sirs

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Exiting the European Union's handling of my FOI request 'Spend data over £25,000'.

As you will be aware, the Department has an obligation to publish data promptly on any spending over £25,000. This policy has been in place since 2010, and so is not something new that has just been sprung on the Department, and all civil servants will have been well aware of this requirement. The publication of such data is not onerous, and most departments simply extract this information from their accounting systems and publish it on GOV.UK as a CSV file. For a new department such as yours, the number of suppliers should be relatively small and hence the requirements to publish fairly simple.

I therefore find it difficult to understand why you have failed to do so until now. Whilst I note that this is information intended for future publication, and therefore potentially exempt, if you could in theory have provided it within the scope of this FOI request, I cannot see why you cannot publish it properly on GOV.UK now rather than delaying further.

As you state, section 22 is a qualified exemption and you need to consider the balance of public interest. With the current high profile of Brexit, there is a very strong public interest in disclosure and in particular which suppliers are involved in supporting you in your planning and how much they are being paid to do so. The public interest in not disclosing at this stage is minimal - unless you are planning to withhold this data for several months, you would simply be releasing it a few weeks earlier than planned. In any event, there should be a strong case for disclosing at the very least information for July to December 2016 now, where there would be little harm to you in an earlier disclosure (and where you should probably have disclosed it anyway by now).

I do not believe that the consideration of where the public interest lies was conducted in accordance with the principles of the FOI Act, which is that you should start from the basis of seeking to disclose information unless there is a very good reason not to do so. Consideration of where the public interest lies should not be determined as you appear to suggest by cost effectiveness, and indeed if you are going through the process for publication anyway to meet your transparency obligations, it makes no difference whether you use the outputs of this to satisfy my FOI request first or whether you use them to publish on GOV.UK. This just appears to be a sham reason for refusing my request.

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

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Baker
With apologies for the delay in responding, please find attached my
response to your request for an internal review of your request made under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000, our reference DEX000300. Many thanks
for your patience in this matter.
Kind regards
Nick Short (Head of FOI DExEU)

Freedom of Information Team

Correspondence Unit

[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png [2]line.png 9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG

E: [3][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter:
@DExEUgov

show quoted sections

Jonathan Rush left an annotation ()

Dear Ms Baker

Congratulations on getting the information you requested from DEXEU. My request to DEXEU was also refused on the basis of section 22, despite an internal review, and is now the subject of a complaint to the ICO:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...
I don't know if you plan to write an article on the basis of the reply you have received and DEXEU's handling of it, but if you are interested, I would be happy to send you a copy of my complaint - you can contact me at jonrush [AT] dircon.co.uk.

My only comment on the information that DEXEU has provided to you is that I am a bit surprised that there are no other items of expenditure above £25K beyond 2 fairly hefty chunks of legal spend. In particular, it would appear that no sums above £25K have been spent on external consultants/expertise. As a taxpayer, one would want and expect spending on such advice to be tightly controlled. Nevertheless, I would have thought that Brexit is an issue of such complexity and national importance that it would be in the public interest to get at least some advice on some issues from outside the civil service (so that decision makers have the benefit of a range of different points of view). This is particularly so in areas where expertise within the civil service is limited, as is likely to be the case in relation to some aspects of Brexit. As you will see from the correspondence relating to my request, I am sceptical as to how far DEXEU has lived up to its promises to consult widely on Brexit. My impression is that its general approach has been to disclose as little as humanly possible, even where that undermines the efficacy of the consultation process. If I am right about there being an overriding (and in my view misguided) concern about secrecy, this may explain the reluctance to use external sources of advice (the fear being that involvement of external advisers could lead to information being leaked). However, I should stress that this is just my view based on my interactions with the DEXEU to date and the lack of transparency around its consultation process. I dare say we could ask DEXEU whether there is any truth in what I am suggesting, but I doubt they would tell us ! Anyway, I hope this is of some use to you.

Kind regards

Jon Rush

Dear Sirs

Thank you for your response.

It does seem strange that you have had absolutely no external spend over £25k other than some legal advice from GLS. Nothing on equipment, facilities, consultancy etc? Also if it was just a couple of figures, that your team decided it was too onerous just to respond to the original FOI request rather than claiming a s21 exemption.

Please could you just recheck that this is every item of spend you have incurred over £25k and that you have not missed anything. (Hopefully this will not take any significant time.)

Regards

Janine Baker

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Ms Baker
I can confirm that the information is that held by the Department at the
time of your request. I hope that is helpful.
Kind regards
Nick

Freedom of Information Team

Correspondence Unit

[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png [2]line.png 9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG

E: [3][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter:
@DExEUgov

show quoted sections

Thanks Nick