Friday, 17 August 2012

FoI Costs/JoCo Hissy Fit; A Further Analysis

I've had a re-read of the spat involving JoCo and his dislike of inconvenient figures demonstrating the relatively low costs of FoI and, with the help of the re-appearance of this follow-up in the Post where some poor spokesdroid tries to give JoCo's side of the story. I have to say, it's a bit muddled.

First of all, let's have a look at what the original FoI response actually told us. Basically, it told us of two exercises where the FoI team had attempted to establish how much FoI cost.

The first, from what I understand from what they say, was a one off exercise to calculate the average (presumably the mean) cost of a FoI case which gave them a figure of £94 each. This is made up from the following;

"Case administration 0.5 hours
Case management 2 hours
Quality assurance 1 hour
Reputation impact assessment 0.5 hours"

They go on to state clearly that this does NOT include the time taken by the bod from whatever department the information request relates to squirrelling about actually finding the info. It does however, include 'reputation impact assessment' which is presumably carried out by the Communications peeps. Other than that, it seems pretty clear that this estimate of costs relates to the internal work carried out by the Information Governance team i.e. staff time/wages etc.

It appears from the Post follow-up the the NCC spokesdroid is saying that this £94 figure has now increased to £138.07 per case. I'm having to assume from the context that we are comparing like with like here, there's nothing to suggest otherwise. The alternative is the possibility that they calculate the average figure now including the costs of workers from other departments chasing down the info. I'm not sure but what we can be certain about is that this figure definitely includes the work done by the Information Governance team. This is important, more on this in a bit.

The second exercise described is one involving a trawl of their new casework system which presumably works out the costs as you go along. This is the system that, we are now told (and it would have been worth this having been mentioned in the original FoI response if anybody's asking my opinion) only had 'half' the case recorded on it, the other half being on the old system. This is the one that gave us the figure of £32,161 for 6 months. As we discussed before, presuming all else is equal and there was nothing unrepresentative about the tie period concerned, our best estimate of the annual cost is 4 times this i.e. £128,644. Note that the FoI response is quite clear that the figure derived from this exercise DOES include the cost of external department bods fishing out the info.

Right. Now let's have a look at the explanation by the spokesdroid in the Post, I will reproduce in full;

"The costs of the Information Governance team clearly form a large part of the overall cost – currently totalling £210,000. (This figure was substantially higher at £320,000 in 2010/11). We estimate that, added to this, the latest full year of FOI responses will amount to £155,577 – giving a total of around £370,000. This is based on the council handling and closing 939 cases between September last year and June 2012 at an average cost which now stands at £138.07. As the number of requests rise beyond 1,000 a year, this total figure is likely to increase."

We first hear about the total cost of the Info Gov team, £210k apparently, which must include all their FoI processing work plus data-protection, advising departments etc. Then we are told that the full year costs of FoI cases is £155,577, based on multiplying up 10 months worth of cases (939) to 12 (1,127) and multiplying it by the new average cost of a case, £138.07. All well and good so far but then HE ADDS THIS TOTAL TO THE FULL COST OF THE INFORMATION GOVERNANCE TEAM.

Now hang on, we can be pretty certain that, as the average case cost already includes Info Gov staff time, adding the cost of the team on again is double counting and thus invalid no? So I'm very sorry but Cllr Collins is going to have to be disappointed that his latest claim of the cost of FoI being 'around £370,000' has just been blown out of the water.

So what does that leave us with, apart from the fact that JoCo is a serial bullshitter who bullies council staff when they simply get on and do their jobs? Well, I would have to say that the best estimate for the cost of FoI to Nottingham City Council is probably about £155k. This comes from the above calculation which includes an updated average case cost and a bigger sample of cases than the one derived from the original FoI response. Also, it is of a similar order of magnitude to that earlier estimate which adds to its credibility.

Without an opportunity to closely examine the methodology and to confirm the added assumptions I've made that's the best I can do. However, we can definitely be sure that JoCo's latest claim of the cost of Foi is demonstrably wrong. That won't stop him repeating it ad nauseam mind.

No comments: