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Commissioner welcomes release of reliance contract

The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, today (7 March 2008) welcomed the decision of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to voluntarily publish in full its contract with Reliance Secure Task Management, for its prisoner escort and court custody service.

The Commissioner first received an appeal in relation to this contract in 2004, when the request was considered under the terms of the non-statutory Code of Practice on Access to Scottish Executive Information, a precursor to the FOI Act. The Commissioner later ordered the release of some related performance information following a separate appeal under the FOI Act in 2006. However, this most recent decision by the SPS, with the full support of Reliance, will see the entire contract, including commercial and other sensitive details previously withheld, made available to the public for the first time.

Kevin Dunion said "This is a positive example of the change in culture looked for under Scotland's new FOI regime. In the past, it would have been highly unlikely for this kind of contract to be fully opened to public scrutiny. However, more and more public authorities are recognising that where public services are delivered under contract it is good practice to release such information as there is a genuine public interest in knowing what has been agreed with the private contractor. I am pleased that the SPS has decided to put the full contract into the public domain."

The contract can be viewed on the SPS website here.

Ends

For further information contact Sue Gemmell or Paul Mutch on 01334 464610, out of hours, 07976 511752.

Notes to Editors:

  • In April 2004 Nicola Sturgeon MSP asked the then Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, to release the contract between the SPS and Reliance.
  • An edited version was published on the SPS website during May 2004.Ms Sturgeon asked the Justice Minister to review the decision to withhold certain information, in line with the Code of Practice on Access to Scottish Executive Information (the Code).
  • This was a voluntary code of practice applying to the Scottish Executive and a small number of other authorities, which existed prior to the implementation of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 on 1 January2005.
  • Ms Sturgeon appealed to the Commissioner in June 2004, asking him to investigate this case under the terms of the Code.
  • The Commissioner's decision in this case found that the information fell within the scope of a confidentiality clause, and that the information had therefore, under the terms of the Code, been appropriately withheld.
  • The Commissioner went on, however, to comment on his dissatisfaction with this type of confidentiality clause within contracts, and its incompatibility with FOI good practice principles.
  • The News Release which accompanied this decision can be found here
  • Interest in information relating to the contract has continued, with the Commissioner subsequently requiring that some related information be released in Decision 053/2006 ? Professor Sheila Bird and the Scottish Prison Service. At the time of the SPS's publication of the contract, the Commissioner was also considering a separate request for a full copy of the contract, under the terms of FOI Act.

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