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FOI investigations list

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Martin Rosenbaum | 12:15 UK time, Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Information Commissioner's Office is going to start regular publishing of the list of freedom of information cases which it is in the process of investigating.

This change of policy should please FOI campaigners and enthusiasts who have argued such routine availability is part of a philosophy of openness.

Until now, the ICO's stance has been to release the list when asked to, through an FOI request, while saying that it has been considering a move to regular publication.

A few days ago, it sent me the latest available version [586KB Excel spreadsheet], accompanied by the news that the caseload report will now in future be routinely made available on the website (although it's not there yet).

In the past, the ICO has sometimes been unfavourably compared with the Scottish Information Commissioner, who has published the comparable list of his ongoing investigations for several years. But the ICO will now be going further than the SIC, including some data such as the dates the complaints were received, which does not feature in the SIC's routinely published list.

However, the ICO's regular publication will not include one piece of information which is in the spreadsheet sent to me (because I specifically asked for it) - the date on which the complaint was allocated to a case officer, which is often a long time after it was received by the ICO.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the ICO's caseload report is how many of the very old cases involve complaints about the Cabinet Office - 10 out of the oldest 26. And comparing it to an earlier version [390KB Excel spreadsheet] released about a year previously in response to another FOI request, it seems that the ICO has had comparatively less success in closing very old Cabinet Office cases than those involving some other public authorities.

Update, 7 August, 1045: The ICO has now published its caseload [184Kb PDF]. However, this is only a PDF, whereas the list they sent me was (as I requested) a spreadsheet, which is more useful because the functionality makes it much easier to analyse.


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