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« Heartland docs leaked | Main | Official sc(k)eptics on AGW »

Public should be charged to see their own papers

That, apparently, is the hope of senior civil servants. A report in the Telegraph says that they are annoyed with the Freedom of Information Act:

Officials are said to be frustrated at spending hours researching the answers to requests for disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act.

Civil servants believe that the laws, which were introduced to make government more open, could have had the opposite effect by making officials less willing to keep written records which could become public.

This is thoroughly dishonest by the mandarins. If the cost of an FOI request exceeds a few hours then it is already possible to charge. In my experience, the bulk of civil servants' time is spent trying to work out how not to comply with their legal obligations rather than trying to locate the information.

And what about the second bit? Civil servants refuse to write things down because anything they do might be disclosed by FOI? Who are these civil servants who are refusing to write things down? And why haven't they been sacked for trying to circumvent the law?

Dishonest mandarins - who would have thought it?

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Reader Comments (51)

Gareth, it is naive to imagine that every disagreement, or amendment to a draft, or piece of advice not taken by a Minister, or controversial idea being discussed - etc, etc - would not be blazoned all over the Press as a sign of disunity or corruption or an upcoming attack on some interest group. As for contract negotiations, unless the company's documents could also be revealed, it just disadvantages taxpayers. And I think you would find few companies that are prepared to have their negotiations made public.

I am very much in favour of greater transparency, but no organisation in an adversarial political system can function in the way you describe.

Feb 16, 2012 at 6:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

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