Ministry of Justice criticised over FoI handling

The department’s handling of Freedom of Information (FoI) will be monitored by the ICO until the end of November, following criticism over delays.

“This is due to delays being identified in a significant number of cases where the statutory time limit of 20 working days was exceeded. The latest MOJ quarterly FoI statistics indicate that they are well below 85% which is one of the triggers for formal monitoring to be considered,” said the ICO.

“The MOJ receives one of the highest volumes of requests across government and this volume has increased noticeably in recent years,” said a statement from the department in response. “The nature of our business means we hold sensitive information which we need to manage carefully, making consideration of material under the FOI Act complex and time consuming.”

Lasting until November 30, the MoJ monitoring process forms part of wider work by the information commissioner on public sector responses to FoI. ICO deputy commissioner Graham Smith said it was vital for authorities to respect the public’s rights of access to information:

“We hope the Ministry of Justice uses this monitoring period to bring about significant improvements in this aspect of its service to the public. Statutory time limits are not optional. The improvements we’ve seen at the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Cumbria County, Nottingham City and Salford City Council are very welcome and I hope these service levels will be maintained.”

Related reading