Two government departments reprimanded by UK data watchdog

Two government departments reprimanded by UK data watchdog

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Two government departments reprimanded by UK data watchdog

In the last seven years, it is the first time that the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO, released a notice of FOI. ICO is the UK’s independent data watchdog department whose duty is to protect the privacy of citizens and expose the data and actions of public departments.

In this notice, it is stated that the Department of International Trade, DIT, responded worst to the public compared to other government departments. Another government department, the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, is also in hot water due to its irresponsible behavior in the past. ICO will take action against both of these departments, DIT and BEIS, for their persistent failure to respond to the public. 

According to the freedom of information act 2000, the authorities are allowed to take action against the government department which is continuously performing poorly for an unacceptable time period. 

According to John Edwards, the Information Commissioner, the citizens have the right to know about the activities of the public departments, and it is the responsibility of the Information Commissioner’s office to provide it to them. He thinks that the openness of public bodies is a part of basic democracy. 

Moreover, John Edwards also warned other departments to focus on their duties. It tells them to learn a lesson from this action taken against DIT and BEIS and try to improve their working structure. If they did not do it, the Information Commissioner will not hesitate from taking a bigger step. The central aim of the Information Commission is to end corruption and irresponsibility in public offices and ensure good practice and honesty.

The consultant of the Information Commissioner’s Office backed the decision of the Information Commissioner and further stated that it was a much-needed decision. He thinks that it was a tough decision, but they were determined to take it so that they could restore the public department system which seems to be falling apart at the moment. 

 He also warned the other public departments with a worse record that the ICO is tracking all these public departments and can not get away with this type of attitude. He also said that if they do not refrain from what they are doing, harsh actions will be taken against them. They will have to pay for their negligence in their responsibility. 

Moreover, he also said that the new commissioner is very determined toward his duty and is trying his best to restore discipline in other offices. He is enforcing the FOI on every public office and body and is warning them of worse consequences. If he keeps working with the same determination, he will surely bring a significant change to public offices within a short period of time. The citizens will also get all their legal rights and will be benefited from the government department. 

The ICO stated that the DIT was responding very late to more than half of the requests of the citizens from the start of this year. Their response time increased while there was no notable change in the number of requests they received. The ICO said that the increase was not because of any problem but was due to the sluggishness of the officers. The DIT is told to answer all the requests received within the last three weeks within the next five weeks. They are also asked to publish a working plan for the future. If they still fail to finish their tasks, they turn to the court for further inquiry.

The BEIS is currently receiving 55% more requests compared to last year. But ICO found that the irresponsible behavior of officers is playing a significant part in increasing. The response time when the workload has also increased. However, there is no action taken against BEIS, but they verbally asked to improve their response time. If they will not improve it shortly, the IOC will issue an enforcement notice. Against them, and serious actions will be taken.

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