Public bodies scrutinised for FOI request failings

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Warren Seddon, the director of Freedom of Information (FOI) and transparency at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has announced that they have significantly increased their efforts in enforcing people’s right to access public information. In the one year since the ICO published their new approach, they have taken more than double the action they had taken in the previous 17 years since the implementation of the FOI law.

The ICO is responsible for promoting and enforcing the principles of the FOI Act, ensuring that individuals have the right to access information held by public authorities. This law, introduced in 2005, aims to enhance transparency and accountability within the government and public sector. However, despite the existence of the legislation for over a decade, the ICO’s level of enforcement actions had been relatively modest.

In response to this, the ICO decided to adopt a new approach to enforcing the FOI law, which was published in June 2020. The objective was to increase the ICO’s impact in holding public authorities accountable and ensuring that individuals could exercise their right to access information freely.

Warren Seddon expressed satisfaction with the progress made in the past year. By adopting the new approach, the ICO has been able to take extensive action in enforcing the FOI law, surpassing their previous efforts by more than double. This shows a significant shift towards a more proactive approach in ensuring transparency and access to information.

The ICO’s increased enforcement actions have had a tangible impact on public authorities. They have issued more decision notices, closure notices, and information notices to ensure compliance with the FOI Act. Additionally, the ICO has witnessed an increase in the number of successful prosecutions against public authorities that have failed to meet their obligations under the legislation.

The ICO’s dedication to enforcing the FOI law stems from their commitment to democratic principles and the significance of transparency in a functioning democracy. By holding public authorities accountable, the ICO helps maintain trust in institutions and empowers individuals to participate in public affairs.

Looking forward, the ICO aims to continue building on the progress made in the past year. They plan to expand their reach and increase the support provided to individuals seeking to exercise their right to access public information. This includes providing clearer guidance and support for public authorities to ensure they understand and fulfill their obligations under the FOI Act.

In conclusion, Warren Seddon’s announcement highlights the remarkable progress made by the ICO in enforcing people’s right to access public information. By adopting a new approach to enforcement, the ICO has been able to significantly increase their actions and hold public authorities accountable. This demonstrates the ICO’s commitment to transparency and the importance of access to information in a democratic society. With continued efforts, the ICO will strive to further enhance transparency and ensure individuals can exercise their right to access public information effectively.

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