Feeds

Information watchdog raps Government over access to data

Health dept under staffed and under performing

High performance access to file storage

The Department of Health is not dealing with freedom of information (FOI) requests properly because of a lack of staff, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said. The ICO has rebuked the Government department over its FOI behaviour.

The Department of Health (DoH) has failed to offer people seeking information the correct advice and assistance and has delayed vital processes beyond a reasonable time frame, the ICO said.

The ICO said in its formal reprimand, its Practice Recommendation, that some of the problems are the result of not enough staff being trained in how to deal with FOI requests.

"While the commissioner has no doubt that pockets of expertise in the area of freedom of information exist within the department, he is concerned that current levels of resource may not support the volume of requests and reviews received," said the recommendation. "He therefore recommends that the department review existing levels of resource for FOI and the deployment of that resource."

The ICO said the DoH was taking too long to process information requests and was not helping people to make their requests as recommended by the Code of Practice of the FOI Act.

"The Department of Health has failed on numerous occasions to offer appropriate advice and assistance to people making requests under the Act and is delaying the conduct of internal reviews beyond a reasonable timescale," said an ICO statement.

"Existing guidance highlights that public authorities should conduct internal reviews within 20 working days (40 days in exceptional circumstances) yet the department took 90 days in one case and 80 days in two other cases," it said.

The ICO also criticised the DoH for issuing "blanket exemptions" from the requirement to publish, meaning that it said whole documents were outside the scope of the FOI Act.

The ICO's Practice Recommendation is based on the results of an audit of 40 complained-about requests made to the DoH. It conducted the audit because it had concerns about the DoH's practices after it breached the Act several times in relation to a single request.

A Practice Recommendation is a first step in the enforcement of the FOI Act. A breach of the recommendation could lead to a breach of the Act itself, which could lead to the ICO issuing an Enforcement Notice. A court can treat a breach of that notice as a criminal offence.

The ICO is continuing its investigations into the DoH on issues not directly covered by this Practice Recommendation, it said. "Other complaints made to the commissioner suggest that the authority may be failing to meet the expected standards of good practice in relation to records management," it said. "The commissioner is exploring these issues further."

See: Practice Recommendation (11 page/78KB PDF)

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.