Decisions Round-up: 1 to 5 October 2012

We published two decisions this week.


Key messages:

  • Take staff absence into account when planning to meet FOI timescales

You are required to respond to requests (and requests for review) within 20 working days ? there are no exceptions.  Make adequate arrangements to cover staff absences, so you don't miss these statutory deadlines.  For example, make sure you have enough trained staff to deal with reviews when key staff are on leave and that your review procedures are well understood.

  • Providing specific responses to requests, rather than general assertions

When drafting a response to an information request, check it against the request to ensure it actually contains the information which has been requested.  In Decision 158/2012 published this week, some of the responses gave only general answers instead of dealing with the actual questions.  On appeal, the authority was happy to release the specific information requested ? and could have done so at the time of the original request.

Summary of decisions:

Mr Egan appealed to the Commissioner when the Health Board was late in responding to one of his requests and two requests for review.  The Board explained that a combination of annual leave and staff turnover led to no trained staff being available to deal with Mr Egan's requests for review within statutory timescales.  The Board has addressed this by increasing the number of trained staff who can conduct reviews. There were also a number of misunderstandings between the Board and Mr Egan which could have contributed to the delays.

Animal Concern asked the Scottish Ministers for information on press advertising surrounding the arrival of the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.  Some information was provided, but Animal Concern didn't believe they had received everything the Ministers held.  We found that some parts of the response implied answers to Animal Concern's questions, but did not provide the information requested.  Ministers were happy to provide the actual information during the investigation, so there was nothing preventing them from providing this at the time of the original request.  Ministers also apologised for responding late because the request had not been registered correctly on their system.

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