Wednesday, 15 August 2012

FoI Staff Give Out the Info, Boss Not Happy, Issues Thinly Disguised Threat

Bit of a follow up drama on the true costs of FoI that I wrote about a while back. Seems that Tories have found the original FoI request my article was based on and it's all found its way into the Post.

To recap, a FoI request unearthed the 'surprising' info that FoI doesn't cost anything like as much as JoCo likes to claim. He likes to over-inflate estimates of the cost in order to discredit FoI because he's scared it will reveal the various shenanigans behind the scenes. He's on record as claiming it costs £500k/yr, whereas the above mentioned response said it was less than £64k/yr.

Clearly, this will never do. One might get the impression that FoI is an insignificant cost and certain people should stop blubbing about. So NCC has come up a new figure of £370k/yr, along with an explanation that the £64k figure only represents about half the total cases, the ones that are logged onto the new system as mentioned in the FoI response. The other half, recorded on the old system, represents over £300k of expenditure. They know this despite the open admission that the cost per case wasn't recorded.

Some points to consider. If I had a reasonably accurate new information management system that told me that half of my workload cost me £64k per year, my best estimate for the whole workload would be £128k per year. In order to guess it to be £370k I'd need to see some pretty convincing evidence that, for some reason, the cases on the old system were so much more labour intensive.

What is perhaps the most sinister aspect of the event is JoCo's quote that he gave to the Post, which I reproduce in full;

"I've always referred to costs of the information management team and other officer time spent dealing with questions and queries – so more than FOIs.

With regard to this paragraph, no I don't think he has done at all. He particularly seems to gloss over the fact that Information Governance also deal with Data Protection, which is a big job in itself, and also have to spend time preparing the various policies, keep the publication scheme up to date and no doubt advise others on its operation, the disclosure logs and all the day to day hygiene stuff like team meetings and supervision.

"Still, if they think they can do the job for £30,000 then I can cut their budget to that and save hundreds of thousands of pounds for more useful frontline services."

This part is rather sinister. It rather looks to me like a rather menacing threat that if certain persons don't play the game budgets may be cut resulting in redundancies. Collins is frequently disparaging about Information Governance's work but this does somewhat take the Abbey Crunch.

As I've said before, if Collins and the crew weren't so secretive they wouldn't have to pay the lawyers so much to fight off the requests for information. Not being seriously dodgy in the first place would mean that fewer people would feel the need to see so much information.

Frankly, Collins wants to thank his lucky stars that the Information is a bit of a pussycat as far as enforcement goes. If they started fining authorities a bit more often the costs would snowball.

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