OGC reviews not exempt from FOI Act

23 May 2007
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24 May 2007

The outcome of the OGC's Gateway reviews should be made public and not be exempt from the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, the Information Tribunal ruled earlier this month.

The tribunal upheld a judgment made last year by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, that the OGC should publish the results of Gateway reviews for the government's identity card scheme. The process examines government projects at five stages and gives them a "traffic light" assessment of action required.

Thomas upheld complaints made against the OGC for not releasing the details under FOI (News, 24 August 2006), but the OGC appealed against the judgment. In its ruling, the tribunal said the OGC appeared to be suggesting that the outcome of all Gateway reviews should not be made public.

The OGC had said releasing results would discourage co-operation of those providing information to reviews in the future and the success of the process would be "undermined". But the tribunal dismissed these claims and added it was unlikely publication would cause the "floodgates to open" for the release of results of other reviews.

Thomas was pleased the tribunal had made it clear that Gateway reviews should not be exempt from FOI: "Disclosure is likely to enhance public debate of such issues as feasibility and how it is managed."

The OGC has until the end of this month to appeal against the decision, but a spokesman would not say if any further action would be taken.

Meanwhile, the Home Office revealed this month that the cost of identity cards has risen by as much as £840 million from initial government estimates to reach £5.75 billion. The tendering process has not started.

The May 2007 cost report for the project put the bill for issuing the cards to British and Irish citizens resident in the UK at £5.55 billion from October 2006 to October 2016, a £640 million increase on the figure in the previous six-monthly report.

"As with any cost estimates covering a 10-year forward period, there are uncertainties," the report warns. "Costs are subject to the completion of a number of competitive tendering processes, which have not yet started, and reflect the current view of the outcome of those processes."

The figure now includes, however, £200 million for providing "biometric immigration documents" to all foreign nationals who are resident in the UK for more than three months from next year. The £510 million cost of running consular services abroad has been removed from the bill. It was "mistakenly" included in original estimates, according to the report, but has now been transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

SMmay2007

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