The Information Commissioner’s Office has published a new "access to information" strategy, in which the regulator calls for better compliance by public sector organisations, with a warning that those who fail to comply will face strong enforcement action.
The "Openness by Design" policy follows last week’s action against the Metropolitan Police, which was whacked with two enforcement notices after the force confessed it has a backlog of over 1,700 subject access requests.
The five ‘Openness by Design’ goals are:
- Ensuring that access to information rights is upheld in a consistent and timely manner and operates effectively in a digital age.
- Providing excellent customer service to individuals making requests to us and lead by example in fulfilling our own statutory functions.
- Raising awareness of access to information rights and make it easier for the public to exercise their rights.
- Promoting the reform of access to information legislation so it remains relevant for our modern society and fit for purpose.
- Further developing and sustaining our international collaboration, learning from the best initiatives around the world.
The ICO’s ambition is to increase the impact of its regulation of access to information legislation. The regulator said it will encourage public authorities to comply with the law in the first instance, reducing the need for people to complain to the regulator. Where necessary, the ICO will take enforcement action and make full use of its spectrum of powers.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “Access to information goes to the heart of a healthy, functioning digital democracy and has a key role to play in an era of increasing public expectation of meaningful government transparency.”
The strategy commits to continue to promote the reform of access to information laws as set out in the ICO’s Outsourcing Oversight? report, published earlier this year, and to take steps to raise awareness of access to information rights.
The strategy, which runs until 2022, will be continually assessed to ensure it aligns with the ICO’s Information Rights Strategic Plan. Progress against the goals will be reported in the Information Commissioner’s Annual Report,which is published in July.