Feeds

Tribunal orders DWP to release IT contract details

Disclosure in public interest

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

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.

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
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
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
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.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.