Promoting Good Practice...
During 2009 we have been working to promote good practice within public authorities through a series of practice assessments. These assessments explore whether an authority's actual practice in dealing with information requests complies with its obligations under freedom of information.
Practice assessments are undertaken through on-site visits, with the Commissioner's staff assessing a public authority's systems and procedures for handling information requests. After the visit, the authority receives an interim report detailing any recommendations. The authority is invited to prepare an action plan to implement changes, and a final report, incorporating the action plan, is published.
The selection of authorities for assessment is based on a number of factors, including the need to consider a cross section of authorities, evidence gathered from previous investigations, information received from members of the public, and the responses provided to a survey questionnaire.
Where we are...
Following the completion of four initial practice assessments in late 2008 and early 2009, the Commissioner announced a further programme of ten assessments to be carried out over the period covered by his 2009/10 operational plan.
Details of the status of assessments at the end of 2009 is set out in the table below:
|Completed Practice Assessments|
|Report Published||Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (tie) Ltd|
|Queen Margaret University|
|Report Pending||Fife Council|
|Lothian & Borders Fire Board|
|Perth & Kinross Council *|
|University of Glasgow **|
|Scheduled Practice Assessments|
|Scottish Ambulance Service Board ♦|
|Scottish Borders Council ♦♦|
|Transport Scotland †|
|Aberdeen City Council ††|
|Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service|
* The Perth and Kinross Council report was published on 9th February 2010.
** The University of Glasgow report was published on 25th January 2010.
♦ The Scottish Ambulance Service Board assessment was carried out on 25th and 26th January 2010.
♦♦ The Scottish Borders Council assessment was carried out on 16th and 17th February 2010
† The Transport Scotland assessment was carried out on 24th and 25th February 2010
†† The Aberdeen City Council assessment was carried out on 22nd and 23rd February 2010
Details of all published assessment reports are available here.
The assessments completed so far have identified many examples of good practice, as well as areas where practice has fallen short. Issues arising include:
- the need to ensure that requesters are made aware of their rights of review and appeal;
- the need to ensure that any reason for refusing a request is properly explained;
- the need to handle requests for environmental information appropriately;
- the need to ensure training and internal procedures support compliance with FOI legislation.
Assessments carried out to date have been a positive and constructive experience, with authorities responding to recommendations regarding their practice and implementing changes. As a result, the Commissioner has so far not been required to make use of his enforcement powers in relation to any assessment.