Unhealthy approach to FOI
It looks like the Information Commissioner is getting tough with those government departments with the worst records on handling freedom of information requests.
Having heavily criticised the National Offender Management Service last month, he has today condemned the Department of Health for its failure to assist FOI applicants and for extending the internal review process unreasonably.
His specific complaints in his 'practice recommendation' include the following:
'The Department repeatedly applies blanket exemptions to requested information with the effect of withholding entire documents from release. This suggests that rather than considering requests on their own merits, exemptions have been applied on a general principle. The Commissioner is concerned that the application of exemptions in this way may have the effect of suppressing non-exempt information from release.'
'The Department repeatedly fails to establish the full extent of information held before responding to a request, resulting in the application of exemptions to information which is not held in its entirety.'
As in the case of NOMS, the Commissioner's criticisms of the unhelpful and slow approach of the Department of Health are in line with the BBC's experience of making FOI requests to the Department.