Publication Schemes

If I receive a request for information which is already available in my publication scheme, do I need to issue a formal refusal notice?

Yes, provided that the request is in a valid format (see section 8 of FOISA). All requests which result in a refusal to release the information requested should be accompanied by a refusal notice, setting out which exemption applies and why. In this case, the exemption cited would be section 25 "Information Otherwise Accessible".

Remember, however, that authorities can choose not to apply particular exemptions, and also have a duty to advise and assist. In this situation, you should consider responding to the request by providing the requester with the information from your publication scheme, along with an accompanying note directing the requester to the scheme where they may be able to obtain similar information in future.

I've been asked to release information which my public authority holds but which I know is already available from another public authority's publication scheme. What should I do?

If the information is available through another authority's publication scheme then the information may fall within the "information otherwise accessible" exemption contained in section 25(2)(a). This means that you do not have to provide the information to the applicant (although if you do hold it, you can choose to release the information in the usual way). If you choose not to provide the information, you should first be sure (checking if necessary) that the information is actually available from the other authority's publication scheme.

If the request has been made by telephone (and is therefore not a valid request under FOISA), you should direct the requestor to the other public authority, thereby fulfilling the duty to advise and assist set out in s15 of FOISA. If the request is in a valid format (see section 8), you must issue a formal refusal notice saying that although you hold the information, it is exempt from release under section 25 because it is available through another organisation's publication scheme. The refusal notice must also point out the requestor's right of review.

The Commissioner would like to remind public authorities that another public authority's publication scheme should only be relied on if the public authority which received the request knows for certain that the information is contained within the other publication scheme.

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