Feeds

Tribunal orders DWP to release IT contract details

Disclosure in public interest

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The Information Tribunal has ordered a government department to publish most of the till-now withheld details of a major IT contract, after ruling that the public interest was served better by disclosure than secrecy.

The First Tier Tribunal has said (pdf) that most of the withheld material in a contract between the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Atos Origin for the provision of the Government Gateway service should be made public. The financial model used by Atos in the contract and the exact location of its data centre can be kept secret, it said.

Peter Collingbourne made a request for details of the contract in December 2007, and some of the requested details were released. Other parts were refused, though, when the DWP argued that it did not have to release the details because doing so would damage its and Atos's commercial interests.

Section 43 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act allows organisations to refuse to release material if it is a trade secret of would damage anybody's commercial interests, and if the public interest would be better served by continuing confidentiality rather than publication.

The Information Commissioner backed Collingbourne's request and ordered the DWP to release the contract details, but the DWP appealed to the Tribunal.

Atos was the only bidder for the £47m Gateway contract after other interested companies pulled out. The contract was for a large IT system to handle information requests and transactions between government departments and the public.

DWP told the Tribunal that the public interest was served by keeping details secret because publication of the details would erode its ability to obtain value for money in future contracts, and could discourage companies from bidding for government work.

The information requested included details of caps on liability contained in the contract as well as details of the 'benchmarking' models used to demonstrate that Atos was charging DWP on a similar basis to other customers.

"The DWP does not want to disclose the [liability] caps because ... it would affect the actual amounts of liability cap that could be achieved for future procurements of shared services and would deter small and medium sized enterprises from bidding for public sector contracts," said the Tribunal ruling. "The reduction in the number of bidders would negatively impact on the commercial interests of the DWP."

The Tribunal ruled that section 43 of the FOI Act did apply to all the information requested.

"We find in relation to all the disputed information, except the Financial Model, that there 'would be likely to be prejudice' to the commercial interests of the DWP. We find that there is a causal relationship between the disputed information and future government procuring of IT services and that there is a real risk to the competitive environment particularly in relation to the future of the Gateway," said the ruling.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?
EU reckons we've one foot out the door anyway
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.