The UK FOIA blog The work of the Information Commissioner: Govt response to the Justice Cttee contains this alarming quote from the Government:
In the current financial year, additional funding has been complemented by a secondment scheme. Seven civil servants paid by their parent departments are currently working for the Information Commissioner's Office on the backlog of freedom of information cases"
How can the Information Commissioner's Office now claim to be seen to remain "independent" from the Whitehall bureaucracy ?
- How can civil servants be trusted to be independent and impartial, when they may have to criticise their own Departments, colleagues and bosses, and could easily come under peer pressure or feel that they might jeapordise their career or promotion prospects if they do so ?
- Will confidential personal data e.g. the real names,postal and email and addresses and telephone numbers of FOIA complainants, submitted to the ICO, find its way back to these Whitehall Departments, via these FOIA complaints backlog "moles" ?
- Will the ICO's legal advice and preparations for Information Tribunal and High Court FOIA appeal cases, also find its way back to the "other side" i.e. to the Whitehall Departmental or Treasury Solicitor legal teams , via such "moles" ?
The extra money should have been used to employ more ICO staff directly.
We have asked, via the WhatDoTheyKnow.com FOIA request portal, which Whitehall departments now have "moles" on secondment within the ICO , and just what their duties and potential ability to delay FOIA complaints is.