I did acknowledge that not all of the posts were wrong. I also know exactly why the company is asking for this information, and I haven’t asserted that he wants it for anything but his own ends. He wants it to improve his chances of getting a printer contract with the school. Why wouldn’t he, and what’s wrong with that? It might be a completely stupid idea, and it probably won’t work, but the FOI Act does not forbid an applicant from making requests that would be of commercial benefit to them. I don’t use FOI for this myself because there is some evidence here and there that organisations are very hostile to commercial companies who use FOI for this purpose. However the use of FOI for commercial purposes is entirely legal because FOI does not forbid any motive for making a request.
Motive is irrelevant. Those that look too closely for the motive are simply making more work for themselves. One of the basic principles of FOI is that outside of vexatious requests, it’s applicant blind. Your own comment shows how much you’re interested in the motives of the applicant. If you’re coming at the subject from such a completely wrong-headed perspective, I remain convinced that if I had said (in as bland and ingratiating a manner as possible so as not to upset anyone), ‘give it out, it’s a valid request and it’s not exempt’, I would have either have been dismissed or ignored.
But, given that sarcasm and p***-taking are apparently intolerable:
1) Cost limits – the £450 limit in the separate FOI fees regulations applies only to the process of finding and locating information. Therefore, applying the cost limits to the request would require information about the printer contract to be located in multiple different sources across the school. I think it’s unlikely that the information would be located in different places, or that it would take more than 18 hours to locate the information in the small number of locations within the school that it is likely to be found. If it really takes that long to locate all of the information within a school, then it’s entirely possible that the school is not complying with the Section 46 Records Management Code by storing its data in an inaccessible way. Using cost limits is a strategy which might expose the school to more difficulty should the applicant challenge a refusal to the Information Commissioner (an eventuality which would involve massively more work than giving the data out now).
2) Despite the views of one commentator’s ‘lawyer friend’, the only information that the DPA
would possibly exempt in this request is personal information about named identifiable staff, and even then, only if the information reflected some personal aspect rather than an entirely professional one. There is some debate about whether the name and contact details of an individual member of staff held in a work context could be considered personal data but my personal opinion is a) yes it is personal data but b) the DPA
would not be breached by the disclosure. None of the information about the printer contracts itself would be covered by the DPA
3) The notion of commercial sensitivity is massively overhyped in the public sector and s43 of FOI offers only limited opportunities to exempt information. If a contract is not currently being negotiated, the information contained in a signed contract – especially one that has been in operation for more than six months – is unlikely to meet the ‘prejudice’ element of s43, but even if it did. the public interest would likely favour disclosure as it would reveal how public money is being spent. So, the possibility of using s43 recedes with each month that passes since the contract was signed.
4) You don’t have to do estimates or approximate answers
5) You cannot charge a person for making an FOI – that’s subject access.
My advice is find the information and give it out. Happy now?