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Commissioner orders release of Glasgow tender information

3 September 2008

The Scottish Information Commissioner has ordered Glasgow City Council to release details of the successful bid for its Street Outreach Service for the homeless. The bid, jointly made by the charities Glasgow Simon Community and Barnardo's, must be released in full following the Commissioner's refusal to accept that disclosure would damage the commercial interests of the bidders or reveal a trade secret.

The Commissioner found that much of the withheld information simply described the service to be offered, while any financial information was specific to the particular service in question and would therefore be unlikely to assist a competitor in any future tendering process. The Commissioner also refused to accept Glasgow City Council's claim that the tender document constituted a trade secret. He found nothing unique or secret about the tender and noted that the manner in which the service was provided would be visible to anyone coming into contact with it.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, said:

"An interesting feature of this case is that it involved charities competing for a contract with a public authority. I found that the information did involve the commercial interests of Barnardo's and Glasgow Simon Community but I could not accept the Council's claims that these interests would be substantially harmed by release ? particularly as much of the information was either already publicly known, or would shortly become so. In any case I took the view that it would be in the public interest for details of the successful tender to be made known."

The tender information was requested under freedom of information by Streetwork, another charity involved in the provision of homeless services.

Ends

For further information contact the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 07976 511752, or email media@itspublicknowledge.info.

Notes to Editors

About the decision:

  • The Commissioner's full decision in relation to this case is published on his website here, as decision 104/2008.
  • Three documents fell within the scope of Streetwork's request: a proposal document; an Integrated Care Proposal Budget; and tender pack certificates. All were initially withheld by the Council, but the tender pack certificates were released to Streetwork during the Commissioner's investigation. The Commissioner's decision considered the two remaining documents.
  • The Council argued that the documents were exempt under sections 33(1)(a) and 33(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Section 33(1)(a) exempts information which is a trade secret, while section 33(1)(b) exempts information where disclosure would prejudice substantially the commercial interests of any person. Both exemptions are subject to a public interest test, meaning that, where they apply, an authority must nevertheless consider the public interest in the release of the information. Information may only be withheld where the public interest in non-disclosure outweighs that in release.
  • The Commissioner found that neither exemption had been appropriately applied by the Council, and therefore ordered disclosure.
  • Embargoed copies of the Commissioner's decision are available by contacting the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 07976 511752, or email  media@itspublicknowledge.info.

About the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA)

  • FOISA provides a statutory right of access to all information held by Scottish public authorities. This right came into effect on 1 January 2005.
  • Information can only be withheld by a public authority if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in FOISA. If an individual believes an authority is wrong to withhold information, they ultimately have a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who can require release.
  • The parties to any case have the right to appeal against the Commissioner's decision to the Court of Session on a point of law only.

Other relevant information

  • The Commissioner is sponsoring a seminar event on Tuesday 30 September 2008 which will discuss and explore the use of FOI by campaign groups and voluntary organisations. The event will also be used to launch a three-year research project with the University of Strathclyde which will examine this area in detail. The launch of the research follows evidence suggesting that the FOI 'right to information' is not being used to its full potential by Scottish civil society, with only 4% of the appeals received by the Scottish Information Commissioner coming from the sector.
  • Further details on the seminar event, including attendance details, are available here.

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