The Information Commissioner has announced a range of measures that public authorities will face if they continually fail to comply with the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Mick Gorrill, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), said that public bodies that repeatedly fail to meet their legal obligations will face regulatory action, which will include enforcement notices, undertakings and practice recommendations.
“Using FOIA can take too long and is sometimes overly cumbersome for members of the public. After monitoring authorities’ compliance with the act, we will take action against those that abuse the system,” he said.
The ICO may issue a practice recommendation for a number of reasons, for example, if an organisation fails to have a record management policy in place, or if it has not implemented a secure system that enables records to be stored and retrieved as necessary.
The main issue that the ICO will be targeting is organisations’ timeliness of response to FOI requests. This is based on the fact that between 20 and 25 percent of complaints to the ICO relate to how long a public body takes to respond.
However, organisations might also be failing to comply if they do not provide the information requested or explain why it cannot be supplied, of if they do not publish official information.
The ICO said it will act based on the complaints it receives, but also follow up on concerns that are raised through its other activities, such as information handling issues highlighted by its data protection audit programme.
Details of the ICO's new FOIA and EIR policy can be found here.