Decisions Round-up: 5 to 9 December 2016

This week we issued the first Enforcement Notices under our Enforcement Policy. The Enforcement Notices require authorities to meet their duty to publish information.

We also take a closer look at resolved appeals in November.

Learning points:

  • Every authority must have an up to date publication scheme
    The FOI Act requires all public authorities to adopt and maintain a "publication scheme" approved by the Commissioner. The publication scheme is a commitment to publish particular types of information in the public interest. If an authority doesn't do this, the Commissioner can issue a formal notice, known as an "enforcement notice", requiring authorities to comply with their publication scheme duties. Last week we issued our first ever enforcement notices.
  • Legal advice shouldn't delay an FOI response
    In Decision 255/2016, the authority told the Commissioner that it had failed to respond to a request for review on time because it was seeking legal advice about what information it could disclose. Just because an authority is seeking advice doesn't mean it can extend the deadline for responding: the FOI timescales must always be met.

Decision issued:

  • Decision 255/2016 Fraser Sutherland and NHS Tayside
    NHS Tayside was asked for information about parking arrangements at the sites it controls. We found that NHS Tayside failed to respond to the request for review within the FOI timescales.

Enforcement notices issued:

  • ENF001/2016 Ayr Renaissance LLP
    Ayrshire Renaissance LLP is a publicly owned company, so is subject to the FOI Act. The approval for its publication scheme expired on 31 May 2015. The Commissioner wrote to the company on several occasions, pointing out that its scheme had expired and asking it to adopt a new scheme. On 21 November 2016, the company told the Commissioner that it would adopt a new scheme, but asked for further time to do this. We issued an enforcement notice, requiring the company to adopt a new scheme by the end of January 2017.
  • ENF002/2016 Daldorch House School
    Daldorch House School is a grant-funded school and, on 1 September 2016, was designated as a Scottish public authority for the purposes of the FOI Act. We wrote to Daldorch in February and March 2016 to remind it of its duties under the FOI Act, including the need to adopt and maintain a publication scheme approved by the Commissioner. Daldorch confirmed, on 14 November 2016, that it would take steps to comply, but told us that this could take some time. We issued an enforcement notice requiring it to adopt a scheme by the end of January 2017.

Resolved cases:

We also resolved six cases in November without the need for a formal decision. The summaries below show some of the ways in which this was achieved.

  • The requests were for someone else's personal information
    In two cases, the requests were for third party personal data. While personal data can be disclosed under FOI in some cases, the requesters accepted our advice that it could not be disclosed here without breaching the Data Protection Act. This led to the requesters withdrawing their appeals.
  • Information was disclosed during the investigation
    In two cases, the authority disclosed information during the investigation and the requesters were happy to withdraw their appeal.
  • The authority agreed to issue a response
    A request had been missed by a public authority because it had got caught up in its spam system. The authority agreed to issue a response and the requester withdrew their appeal.
  • Two separate appeals were put into one
    One requester appealed to us because the authority hadn't responded to their request for review. Shortly after making the appeal, the authority issued a response. The requester withdrew the first appeal and made a new one which asked to us to investigate the failure to respond as well as their dissatisfaction with the actual response.

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