The FOI process provides individuals or organisations with the right to request official information held by a public authority. Last year the MOD signed an undertaking which publicly committed the Department to improve the time taken to respond to FOI requests.
From April to September, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) monitored a number of public authorities, including the MOD and the Cabinet Office, that were judged to be falling below its minimum standard for responding to these requests.
The ICO has just announced in a letter to Permanent Under Secretary Ursula Brennan that the MOD’s performance has improved and the period of formal monitoring has ended.
The Head of Corporate Information for the MOD said:
The MOD welcomes the news that the Information Commissioner has decided to cease the formal monitoring of the Department on its compliance in responding to FOI requests. The MOD has worked hard to improve its performance and is committed to responding to requests from the public in a timely manner.
FOI is an important element of MOD business. It forms part of the Government’s commitment to openness and transparency and imposes a legal duty on the Department.
We do not take these responsibilities lightly and we aim to ensure that we maintain our performance in order that the Department continues to support wider government objectives and meets its statutory obligations.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said:
Responding promptly to Freedom of Information requests is important for maintaining public confidence and achieving greater transparency. While both the MOD and the Cabinet Office have put a good deal of effort into making significant improvements to their FOI-handling processes, it is vital that these improvements are sustained.
We will continue to work with both Departments to ensure that any outstanding requests over the 20 working day time limit are answered as soon as possible.
Between April and June 2011 the MOD answered 81 per cent of requests on time, and 84 per cent between July and September. The statistics for October to December are expected to be about 85 per cent of requests answered on time, and these figures will be included in the Ministry of Justice report on FOI published on their website.