20 March 2012

Cloak and Dagger

DRS scoring session at Trowers & Hamlins?
Executive Summary:

The identity of the people choosing who will supply Barnet residents with a large bundle of services is top secret and the scoring was carried out under ridiculous conditions at great expense. The lawyers hosting the team are making a bundle.

So who has been reading too many books by John le Carré, like that one Mr Mustard is also keen on: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Cooper? Mr Mustard thinks that from now on he might start referring to the North London Business Park as the "circus".

Now DRS, the cobbled together bundle of largely unrelated services with incomings and outgoings totalling about £250m over the 10 years of the contract, is a large value and vital contract of interest to, and with implications for, all of Barnet's residents. Mr Mustard decided to ask who had done the scoring that reduced the bidders down to two; Capita and EC Harris.

Barnet Council DRS ISOS Evaluation Strategy

Who decides your future? Mr, Mrs & Miss redacted. Do you think that we have a right to know? Mr Mustard does. Decisions on £250m should not be made by faceless individuals. Where is the democratic accountability and scrutiny. Here is the refusal notice from Barnet Council.

We have redacted all names appearing in the document as they constitute personal information exempt under section 40 of FOIA.

We have also withheld Appendix 1 as this information is exempt under section 41 of the FOIA. (provided in confidence)
Refusal notice

Section 40: Personal information

Section 40 FOIA sets out an exemption from the right to know if the information requested is personal information protected by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The DPA governs the processing of personal data and defines personal data as any information which could lead to the identification or (sic) living individuals.

Section 40 (2) FOIA exempts disclosure of information if such disclosure would contravene one of the data protection principles. This exemption is absolute and is not subject to the public interest test. Blackstone's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 suggests that this answer is wrong.

The first of the data protection principles requires that personal data is processed fairly and lawfully. It is our view that to disclose the redacted information would breach this principle, in particular, the requirement of fairness because these individuals are junior members of staff (why are junior members of staff deciding something that is so important) and others are employees of other companies (why are consultants deciding what consultants we use?) who have not consented to their information being disclosed under FOIA. These individuals also have a reasonable expectation of privacy and do not expect to be subject to public scrutiny especially with regard to a project which is in its procurement stage. (Every business person prepared to put their hand in the public pocket must expect to be be in the public spotlight if they earn at the rate of £58,200 p.a. or more )

Mr Mustard has decided that we should know this information and so has asked for a review. Once a professional FOI officer gets hold of it instead of an unhelpful Business Support Officer in the One Barnet office ( who is so secretive that he doesn't even put his job title on his emails - Mr Mustard had to FOI for it - this could be why FOI numbers are going up?)

What is really bonkers, absolutely mind-numbingly stupid, is that the officer (somebody sensible should confiscate his black marker pen) has redacted the name of the Commercial Services Director. The council themselves publish the name of Craig Cooper in the corporate structure chart, in the Annual Accounts, in various Delegated Powers Reports, in public reports to committee, in fact, all over the place. Why cross his name out?

Mr Mustard will give you all of the names soon. Either because one of his moles will put it in the dead letter drop at Chipping Barnet library (Robert Rams can go into and out of Mill Hill library unseen, Mr Mustard does the same at his nearest library) or because the Review will be carried out by a proper FOI officer with some common-sense and the answers will then be forthcoming.

Appendix A is probably deadly boring but as every single word of it is apparently a state secret it might prove a little harder to challenge. I expect the Information Commissioner will have to decide.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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