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post #558 of (permalink) Old 11th March 2007
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Originally Posted by vass20 View Post
If they are messing around hiding the number of complaints in an attempt to whitewash the public, they would be guilty of a very serious offence and their jobs would be on the line. This could also lead to an investigation into a potential conflict of interest. There have been S.I.B. investigations that led to officials going to prison for things like that, so I don't believe this is happening.

I would be happy to send you my scanned in copies of my FoI request and I think you can see a letter Aaron recieved from VOSA that completley contradict each other! Aaron's letter says with the whole 'bashed the bonnet back into shape' response and mine where they say that they haven't examined any cars where their has been an incident!

Surely if my complaint was put in writting to them they have a duty to log it? I can get at least 10 others to speak to the fact they put their complaint in writting so surely these should be logged as a matter of course even if the case is closed!
If you know of ten people who reported to VOSA that their bonnet had flown open while they were driving, you should list them in an email or letter and confront them with giving you false or incomplete information in defiance of the FOI Act. Tell them you want a full report within three days or the matter goes to their CEO Mr Clive Bennett and subsequently to your Member of Parliament for referral to the Information Commisioner. But please be sure of your facts and that the people who complained are prepared to identify themselves.

It could also be that VOSA/VSB are a toothless watchdog because parliament restricted their authority or portfolio. I don't know much about that and they may simply be doing what little they can. That said, they cannot possibly justify giving you doctored information which is quite serious. Does anyone know what penalties are envisaged for public officials who flaunt these laws? Actually it treats a non-compliant agency (that attempts to frustrate an application for information) as being guilty of a contempt of court.

Some notes: See what you think.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000:

Part III: General functions of Secretary of State, Lord Chancellor and Information Commissioner

Part IV: Enforcement
15. This enables an applicant who is not satisfied with the response by a public authority to a request for information to apply to the Commissioner for a decision on whether the authority has acted in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Subject to certain conditions, for example, the exhaustion of other means of complaint, the Commissioner is under a duty to reach a decision.

16. This part of the Act also describes the investigative and enforcement powers of the Commissioner. The Commissioner's powers of entry and inspection are set out in Schedule 3. It confirms that the Act does not give rise to any right of action against public authorities for breach of statutory duty. This part also provides for the circumstances in which a certificate may be issued by an accountable person in respect of a decision notice or enforcement notice issued by the Commissioner in respect of the disclosure of exempt information. The effect of such a certificate is that a public authority need not comply with the Commissioner's notice.

It is significant that Part Xlll of the Act creates an offence of altering etc. records with intent to frustrate a right of access; The following section and subsections refer.

54. - (1) If a public authority has failed to comply with-

(a) so much of a decision notice as requires steps to be taken,
(b) an information notice, or
(c) an enforcement notice,
the Commissioner may certify in writing to the court that the public authority has failed to comply with that notice.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a public authority which, in purported compliance with an information notice-

(a) makes a statement which it knows to be false in a material respect, or
(b) recklessly makes a statement which is false in a material respect,
is to be taken to have failed to comply with the notice.

(3) Where a failure to comply is certified under subsection (1), the court may inquire into the matter and, after hearing any witness who may be produced against or on behalf of the public authority, and after hearing any statement that may be offered in defence, deal with the authority as if it had committed a contempt of court.

Section 77: Offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure
234. This section makes it an offence to alter, deface, block, erase, destroy or conceal records held by a public authority with the intention of preventing its disclosure to an applicant who has made a request for the information and is entitled to receive it. The offence applies to the public authority and anyone who is employed by, is an officer of, or is subject to the direction of, the public authority. A person found guilty of the offence is liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (currently 5000). The offence cannot be committed by a government department but can be committed by civil servants.

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