Friday 1 February 2008

Blood out of a Stone Act 2000 Part II (could be one of many)

I had a couple of visits to my blog yesterday from Ministry of Defence IP addresses but I obviously don't know if they were anything to do with my FOI request. (My blog is mainly about reporting war after all - it's not unfeasible that somebody in another department might have stumbled across it). If it was to do with my FOI request then it would be better to contact me directly in any case so I know what's going on.

And seeing as no one has done this, well over two months after my initial request, I've decided to officially complain to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Apparently I'm supposed to complain to the MoD first, before complaining to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). I can't really see the point of this in my case, (if the MoD won't contact me, how am I supposed to find out the result of my complaint?) so I'll be sending on my complaint to the ICO in due course. Here are some 'highlights' of the email I sent to the MoD:

"This is an official complaint regarding the handling of my freedom of information request. On 29th Nov 2007, I requested several pieces of information...

"The deadline for a response to this request is listed as the 3rd January. This deadline passed and, as I'm sure you are aware, this represents a breach of Section 10 of the FOI Act 2000. Section 16 also states that an organisation has a duty to provide advice and assistance. (I have hardly had any assistance at all as the following clearly demonstrates.)

"I have still had no contact from the MoD whatsoever in regard to my request. I am appalled by the manner in which my request has been handled. I would prefer not to have to spend time complaining, as it creates more paperwork for everybody involved. But the fact that nobody from the FOI team has had the common courtesy to even acknowledge my request, any of my follow up emails, or the messages that were no doubt left for them, leaves me with no other option.

"I am not particularly hopeful for a response to this correspondence. I am aware that I should wait for an internal review of the handling of this complaint by the MoD, before I can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office. But I am fed up of waiting, and unless I receive a reply to my request later today, I will be forwarding this email to the ICO in due course."

Update 4.30pm

I have finally had a response acknowledging my 'unsatisfactory experience'. Somebody else from the Information Access Office at the MoD is now chasing it up for me, promising a response as soon as possible from a member of the FOI team and an explanation for the delay. Let's hope it materialises.

(I should just point out that I've nothing against the MoD. Last year, I was very fortunate to be allowed access to film a Territorial Army battalion on exercise and SaBRE, an arm of the MoD that helps TA soldiers and their employers, were very helpful in agreeing to do an interview).


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