The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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News IconScottish public authorities receive mixed report on publication

4 July 2016

 

Research published today [4 July] by the Scottish Information Commissioner finds there are significant gaps in the information Scotland's public bodies make available. While many bodies meet most of their publication requirements, not all do. Information critical to holding public bodies accountable in relation to procurement, contracts, spending and salaries is not uniformly accessible to the public.

Freedom of information law requires public bodies to publish information about their work under categories specified by the Scottish Information Commissioner. These categories are wide-ranging and include public authority functions, decision-making and performance. They capture information on:

  • Spending, e.g. on overseas travel, hospitality, external consultation or public relations
  • Salaries of senior employees
  • Procurement policies and procedures
  • Details of awarded contracts.

The research carried out on the Commissioner's behalf by Craigforth Ltd, involved a "mystery-shopping" exercise with 70 Scottish public bodies. This was followed by direct contact with 44 of those bodies. Researchers found that, while 94% of public bodies had an online "Guide to Information" to help people access published information:

  • Only 41% published adequate information on procurement and contracts
  • Only 46% published adequate information on spending and salaries
  • 20% of email and 21% of telephone requests for assistance were not responded to.

Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew said:

"I wanted this research to replicate as far as possible the experience of the average person trying to find information about public authorities. While Craigforth are experienced researchers, they are not FOI experts and that was important.

"The findings were mixed. It's very positive to confirm that the overwhelming majority of authorities publish easily accessible guides to the information they make available. But it's disappointing to learn that such important information on spending and procurement too often could not be found. It is also unacceptable that around one in five requests for help went unanswered.

"Freedom of information requires authorities to publish information, and to help anyone who wants to access it. Easy access to information is fundamental to citizen engagement. It is also an important part of establishing a relationship of trust and accountability, without which confidence in public services is undermined."

The Commissioner has responded initially to the findings by writing to public bodies across Scotland to inform them of the research findings, and to offer advice to authorities on how to meet their publication duty more effectively. She will consider further action in light of the responses she receives.

The full research report is available at: www.itspublicknowledge.info/MPSMonitoring2016.

ENDS

 

 

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