Supply of High Capacity Internet Service

Richard Jackson made this Freedom of Information request to Belfast City 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 successful.

Richard Jackson

Dear Sir or Madam,

In the minutes of the Policy and Resources (Finance, Administration and Information Systems) Sub-Committee 20 March 2006, under the heading "Contract for the Supply of Internet Services", it is noted that five tenders were received for the provision of high capacity internet service, and the lowest, which was accepted, was for £45,165.

However, at the meeting at which this tender process was approved (25 August 2005), it was noted that "the estimated cost of the provision of the high capacity internet connection would be £30,000 per annum".

Can you please provide copies of any memos, reports, emails, etc that led to this original figure of £30,000 being quoted, as well as details on how the tender process was undertaken (e.g. was it sent to a shortlist of firms, or advertised publicly), copies of any ads or other documentation provided as part of the tender process, and copies of the tenders received.

I would also ask for details of the actual bills raised (or expected to be raised) for this service to date.

I would note that as more than two years have now passed since the tender process, that, per OIC guidance, the public interest test should outweigh any expectations of commercial confidences, and thus, if any such exemption is claimed in relation to any of this, a detailed justification be provided.

Yours faithfully,

Richard

Richard Jackson

Dear Sir or Madam,

The above query of 30 June has not yet received an answer although 20 working days have now passed. Can you please provide an update on the status of the request?

Thank you,

Richard

Sharon Godden, Belfast City Council

3 Attachments

Dear Mr Jackson

Thank you for your email dated 30 June 2008 requesting information on the
contract for the supply of an internet service for Belfast City Council.

I should explain that the accepted bid for this service referred to in the
minutes of the meeting of the Policy and Resources (Finance,
Administration and Information Systems) Sub-Committee, 20 March 2006, for
£45,165 was the total cost for three years, not the cost per annum.

The Council does hold the information you have requested, with the
exception of any documentation that led to the estimated figure of
£30,000 per annum being quoted at the meeting of 25 August 2005, to which
you refer in your email. I can, however, advise you that this estimated
figure was based on our previous internet requirements and costs charged
by the previous internet provider.

The Council has decided that your request for details of how this tender
process was undertaken; copies of the relevant advertisement and other
documentation provided as part of the tender process; and for details of
the actual bills raised (or expected bills) for this service to date can
be disclosed.

Accordingly, I can confirm that this tender was publicly advertised, and a
copy of the public advertisement is attached. A copy of the tender
documentation forwarded to prospective tenderers on request is also
attached. I can advise you that five companies submitted tenders and the
successful bidder was Cable & Wireless. Details of the actual bills
raised to date in respect of this service is also attached. I can advise
you that future bills are expected to be £1484.00 per month until such
time as the service requirements change.

With regard to your request for copies of the tenders received by us in
response to this advertisement, the Council has decided that it can
disclose this information with the exception of the names of other clients
of the companies which submitted a tender; the policy numbers of insurance
and professional indemnity policies they held; and the sort codes of the
banks used by these companies and their bank account numbers on the
grounds that this information is commercially sensitive. The Council has
also decided to withhold the personal names and contact details of
individuals, who are not Council staff or councillors, referred to in each
of the submitted tenders. The Council is required to withhold the
personal data of these individuals to protect their privacy. The Council
will, therefore, provide you with redacted copies of the submitted
tenders, and where information has been withheld by the Council it will be
clearly marked together with a brief explanation of why this is not being
disclosed. Unfortunately, however, the Council is not able to send you a
copy of the redacted tenders in electronic format, but if you forward me a
postal address I will arrange to have this material sent to you
immediately, free of charge.

I shall now explain in more detail the Council*s reasons for withholding
the names of other clients of the companies which submitted a tender, the
policy numbers of insurance and professional indemnity policies they held
and the sort code of the banks used by these companies and their bank
account numbers. Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
permits a public authority not to disclose information if its disclosure
would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any
person, including the public authority holding it. The Council considers
that to disclose the information referred to above is likely to prejudice
the commercial interests of both the companies involved and Belfast City
Council, and that the information is therefore exempt from disclosure
under Section 43 of the Act. This information is commercially sensitive
and it is important to their competitive edge. For example, if the
Council released the details of their other clients it may encourage
others to *poach* their business. Insurance and bank account details need
to be protected against theft/fraud etc. With regard to the Council*s
commercial interests, if the Council disclosed this type of information it
would adversely affect the ability of the Council to source suppliers in a
competitive environment. I trust that you will appreciate the commercial
sensitivities involved, especially given that the amount of information
being withheld by the Council is relatively small and does not adversely
affect the quality of the information you have sought.

Where the Council decides that the information requested is exempt from
disclosure under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act, it must
then apply what is known as a public interest test. This requires the
Council to decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the
public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest
in disclosing the information.

In applying the public interest test the Council gave careful
consideration to the arguments for and against disclosure. When
considering factors which would favour disclosing the information, we had
to assess whether disclosure of this information would:

o allow for more informed debate on the issue;
o promote accountability and transparency for our decisions and in our
spending of public money; and
o assist the public to understand and challenge our decisions.

Against these considerations we had to balance the likelihood of
disclosure having an adverse affect on the commercial interests of the
companies involved and the Council itself.

Having taken into account the arguments for and against disclosure, The
Council has decided that the public interest in this case is best served
by maintaining the exemption and by not disclosing this information. The
Council considers that the possible benefits of disclosure are outweighed
by the real risk of causing prejudice to the commercial interests of the
companies concerned and the Council itself.

The decision was taken on the grounds that although some of the
information is being withheld, the disclosure of the remainder of the
tender submissions ensures that the Council meets its statutory
obligations to promote accountability and transparency for our decisions
and in the spending of public money in connection with this service and to
encourage informed public participation in the debate about this issue.
Moreover, in this case there is an overriding public interest in ensuring
that companies are able to compete fairly and in ensuring there is
competition for public sector contracts. There is also an overriding
public interest in protecting the companies against theft/fraud. In
addition, the quality of the information you have requested is not
adversely affected.

Turning now to the Council*s decision to withhold the personal names and
contact details of individuals, who are not Council staff or councillors,
referred to in the submitted tenders, Section 40(2) of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 permits a public authority not to disclose
information if it would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998. The
Council considers that to disclose the redacted information would breach
the Data Protection Act 1998. In particular the Council considers that it
is necessary to protect the privacy of the individuals given that their
details may not now be accurate given the length of time that has passed
since the information was received, and the withholding of the information
does not adversely affect the quality of the information you requested.

If you are dissatisfied with how the Council handled your request for
information, you have the right to request that the Council formally
review this decision. If you wish to do so, please write to the Records
Manager, Belfast City Council, Adelaide Exchange, 24-26 Adelaide Street,
Belfast, BT2 8GD.

Should you remain dissatisfied following the Council*s internal review,
you can seek an independent review from the Information Commissioner.
Requests for an independent review should be made in writing to: The
Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire,
SK9 5AF. However I would advise you that the Information Commissioner has
indicated that a review will not be undertaken unless the Council has
first had an opportunity to re-consider its decision.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact me.

Yours sincerely

Sharon Godden

Commercial Support Assistant
Information Services Belfast
22-38 Gloucester Street
Belfast
BT1 4LS
Tel 028 9024 4832 Ext 4206

Email: [1][email address]

Sharon Godden

Commercial Support Assistant

Information Services Belfast

Belfast City Council

Tel 028 9024 4832

Ext 4206

The information contained in or attached to this message is intended only
for the people to whom it is addressed.
If you are not the intended recipient, any use, storage, disclosure or
copying of this information is unauthorised and prohibited.
This information may be confidential or subject to legal privilege.
If you have received this email in error please notify the sender
immediately by using the reply facility in your email software and then
delete the email from your inbox.
The contents of this message do not represent the expressed view of
Belfast City Council unless that is clearly stated.
Belfast City Council cannot accept liability in the event that the onward
transmission, opening or use of this message and/or any attachments
adversely affects the recipient's systems or data.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Robert Corbett, Belfast City Council

Dear Mr Jackson

Thank you for your email dated 30 July 2008 requesting an update on the
status of your request for information on the supply of an internet
service for Belfast City Council.

Your request was received by the Council on 30 June 2008 and, accordingly,
the first working day of the twenty working day statutory deadline for
providing you with a reply was 1 July 2008. However, as the Council was
closed on 14 and 15 July 2008 for bank/public holidays, these two days
were not counted as working days. Consequently, the deadline for your
reply was calculated as 30 July 2008. I note that my colleague, Sharon
Godden, did issue the Council's reply on that date.

I trust that you find this explanation satisfactory and I apologise for
any inconvenience caused.

Yours sincerely

Robert Corbett

Records Manager

The information contained in or attached to this message is intended only
for the people to whom it is addressed.
If you are not the intended recipient, any use, storage, disclosure or
copying of this information is unauthorised and prohibited.
This information may be confidential or subject to legal privilege.
If you have received this email in error please notify the sender
immediately by using the reply facility in your email software and then
delete the email from your inbox.
The contents of this message do not represent the expressed view of
Belfast City Council unless that is clearly stated.
Belfast City Council cannot accept liability in the event that the onward
transmission, opening or use of this message and/or any attachments
adversely affects the recipient's systems or data.

.

Richard Jackson

Dear Sharon,

Thank you for this response. I had indeed misunderstood the original figures, and thought that the £45k was per annum, rather than over 3 years. As the final figure was 50% less than expected, rather than 50% more, I am happy with the information you have already provided, and withdraw my request for copies of the tender documents.

Thank you,

Richard

Richard Jackson

Dear Robert,

Thank you for this explanation. However, from what I can ascertain, only the 14th July was an official holiday in terms of the Act. That the Council was closed on the 15th as well is not relevant to counting the days, and a response was required to be provided by the 29th.

I would appreciate your further comments on this point.

Yours,

Richard

Records - Chief Exec Records Manager, Belfast City Council

Dear Richard

Thank you for your email dated 5 August 2008.

Your interpretation of Section 10(6) of the Freedom of Information Act,
which provides a definition of 'working day', is correct.

Yours sincerely

Robert

Robert Corbett
Records Manager
Chief Executive's Department
Belfast City Council
Internal Ext. 6265
Direct Line 02890 270639

show quoted sections