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General Chat Thread, FOI Request about my printers.... in General; I asked Tim Turner, the "Leading FOI Expert" who created that blog post, if he would like to come on ...
  1. #46
    CAM
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    I asked Tim Turner, the "Leading FOI Expert" who created that blog post, if he would like to come on here and comment. Unfortunately he opted to respond with further sniping and ridicule against the forum based on his assumptions formed from a handful of posts in this thread. So I guess we won't be seeing him any time soon.

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    It is quite amusing that this person felt it more useful to act the court jester than to make a comment on here indicating what was wrong and what was right. We, I'm pretty sure, are in the jobs we are on to help educate future generations of our population. So, helping each other comes naturally. With the jester? Not so much. It's actually the sort of behaviour we punish in schools as it is the equivalent of bullying.

    Seems they need to grow up, and stop feeling superior for no reason...

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    Indeed this. After all, we're experts in school ICT, not lawyer crap. Many of us believe we know what's right when in fact we're wrong, some are indeed right and have their own expertise. We'd all welcome more expert opinions when they're put across properly. Maybe some of us do come across a bit strong in our posts and beliefs, and the FoI requests in this manner do get some of our backs up. After all, we all know what the purpose of FoI is, and we all know when it's being abused. This particular person believes it is not possible to abuse it. This person is wrong. Hey-ho, no big deal. This person also appears unaware that our job is to look after the school's best interests with regards to the IT infrastructures and systems, whether we're employees or contractors. Using a FoI request to get information such as contracts and pricing as a supplier is low and there are many good reasons why that would write off said supplier's chance to be considered in our schools. After all, the information they will get from such request will be who, and what cost. Cost is NOT the end of it. If they come in with the same apparent service and a lower cost it does NOT mean they are better value for money. This blogger appears wholly unaware of this.

    The purpose of this forum is to unite us geeks of an education (and other) disposition and provide a central depository or hive mind for expertise, opinions, hints, tips and general social stuff. If one of us is wrong, I implore people to say so in an mature and factual manner with the relevant evidence and/or expertise to back this up. If the person that is wrong is also mature, offence will not be taken and they will have learned something. Thus, the community improves, someone has learned, and someone has helped us learn. Mockery is low and unnecessary. We're adults.

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  5. #49
    CAM
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    FOI Request about my printers....

    Well, here is blogger Tim's view of the thread.


    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?
    (Please keep replies civil as it's taken an awful lot of teeth pulling to get this!)
    Last edited by Little-Miss; 16th February 2014 at 09:35 PM.

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    That's fair enough. If only he'd seen fit to actually post that information in the first place rather than dangle the troll-carrot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40 View Post
    I work in a school that happily refuses all FoI. We are independent. We don't spend public money. We can tell the requestor to get knotted
    I was wondering if that was the case. My response would be to pass it through to those members of the SLG who deal it hit and let them worry

  9. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart_C View Post
    I was wondering if that was the case. My response would be to pass it through to those members of the SLG who deal it hit and let them worry
    Only establishments spending tax payers money are subject to FoI. So government departments, councils, schools, prisons, etc must comply.

    Independent schools are spending the money of their parents, the fee payers, so definitely do not have to comply.

    Interestingly, one of the worst offenders for failure to comply is the DfE.... Tut tut Mr Gove!

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    I'm inclined to come back to the words of the man who created the Freedom of Information Act, and/or allowed it to be created.

    "For political leaders, it's like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, 'Hey, try this instead', and handing them a mallet."

    "If you are trying to take a difficult decision and you're weighing up the pros and cons, you have frank conversations... and if those conversations then are put out in a published form that afterwards are liable to be highlighted in particular ways, you are going to be very cautious. That's why it's not a sensible thing."

    As much as I'm not a fan of Blair, he did have the guts to talk about it this way after the fact. He did have the guts to acknowledge the burden this Act places on all manner of institutions, and to recognise the damage it would do and has done.

    This Act was passed to allow the public to hold institutions who manage the expenditure of public money to account. There had never been anything like it before (to my knowledge). However, it has been almost universally acknowledged, since then, that it's often not "the public" who use it, and consequently it's often not used in the proper spirit. The previous government - unintentionally, I'm sure - created a rod not just for their own backs, but for those of poor, unsuspecting other people who have better things to be dealing with.

    Nevertheless, the law is indeed the law and schools, as public institutions, do need to comply with it. But then we must bear in mind our primary business, and why we are doing it. Our suppliers must also bear in mind their primary business, and why they are doing it.
    Last edited by Ephelyon; 17th February 2014 at 01:08 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40
    Interestingly, one of the worst offenders for failure to comply is the DfE.... Tut tut Mr Gove!
    Just out of curiosity, what actually happens if you don't comply?

    When journalists use foi requests they always say "X number of Councils\NHS trusts\Police forces responded", yet I can't say I've ever heard of an institution being prosecuted for non compliance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkeh View Post
    Just out of curiosity, what actually happens if you don't comply?

    When journalists use foi requests they always say "X number of Councils\NHS trusts\Police forces responded", yet I can't say I've ever heard of an institution being prosecuted for non compliance.
    In theory you are in for huge fines imposed by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and it does happen to mere normal businesses like schools and councils. Whether the DfE cares or pays up is another matter

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    Thing is though, even if you did have to divulge information through FOI, you would certainly never deal with a company like this thanks to this kind of ridiculous tactic!

    They're obviously not the brains of the operation...

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    @CAM can you please let your friend know, he mentioned about the person said about a "lawyer friend"...I didn't say that, I said I asked an actual lawyer. I work in a lawyers office and have about 30 of them to ask for advice on various things. DPA does indeed cover a contract and most contracts have clauses that would oppose FOIA in someway, most saying not to divulge how much they're worth, the company name, signatory parties etc.

    The person I asked specifically deals with Freedom of information, Copyright Permissions and DPA within our office and all requests for FOIA get sent to him (as we were a company that dealt with people using legal aid).

    *edit*

    @CAM this is not a dig at you, or your friend, just me advising what I was told, and the person I asked, and their position and such like within the company I work for.

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    CAM
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    He's not my friend, I was restraining myself on his blog comments...

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  17. #59

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    The notion of commercial sensitivity is massively overhyped in the public sector and s43 of FOI offers only limited opportunities to exempt information.
    It would be very useful to know what is covered by s43 then - is it only for requests like "Please give us the source code for your internally developed & copyrighted application" and similar? ICO's guidance - that I quoted directly earlier - isn't overly specific in this regard.

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    FOI Request about my printers....

    Quote Originally Posted by CAM View Post
    Well, here is blogger Tim's view of the thread.



    (Please keep replies civil as it's taken an awful lot of teeth pulling to get this!)
    I think he's absolutely right. I'm amazed and appalled at the amount of hysterical nonsense talked on here every time a FOI request is mentioned. Yes, some of the applicants are distasteful when they try and dig information out via FOI to use to harass the school and undercut current suppliers, but the answer to that is to supply the information then refuse to deal with them when they ring up looking for a sale, not to play stupid games with supplying the answers to what is a valid FOI request.
    Last edited by Little-Miss; 19th February 2014 at 07:58 AM.

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