Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, demands extending FOI to companies providing services to the public sector

The ICO will submit a report to Parliament next year arguing the need to extend the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to apply to outsourcing in the public sector. This would bring private sector companies providing services to public sector organisations under the Act.

“When a public service departs from a public body under an outsourcing contract, I do not believe that the requirements of FOI should melt away as the contractor takes over,” Denham said.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has, for some time, been calling for extension of the FOIA to public service contractors in a balanced and proportionate way, based on the size of the function that is being performed. With small and medium sized contracts, the public authority would retain responsibility for complying with the right to information.

In her speech on 8 December at the Free Word Centre, London, Denham also made the case for a ‘Duty to document’ – something she advocated in her native Canada for British Columbia (see PL&B UK Report, November 2015, p.14-16).

“A positive, legal obligation to document actions and decisions is my answer to the challenge of decisions taken by text, by instant message, by email.”

“If public authorities are placed under an effective duty to document regime, then we are telling them to write down their decisions, to note their reasons and most importantly to write things down well,” Denham said.

This event was held to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Sweden’/Finland’s (together at the time) Freedom of Information Act – translated in full as “His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Regarding the Freedom of Writing and of the Press”

See https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/news-and-blogs/2016/12/freedom-of-information-250-years-on-two-challenges-two-solutions/