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Information Commissioner to raise issue of transparency in era of greater outsourcing

The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, is to raise with ministers the transparency issues created by private companies providing an increasing proportion of public services.

Denham, who was previously information commissioner for British Columbia in Canada, replaced Christopher Graham at the Information Commissioner’s Office in July.

In an interview with Martin Rosenbaum of the BBC she said: “Private contractors above a certain threshold for a contract or doing some specific types of work could be included under the FOI Act. The government could do more to include private bodies that are basically doing work on behalf of the public.”

Denham also said she intended to review how the ICO tackles public authorities with a poor track record of handling FOI requests. This will include examining the threshold at which authorities that fail to meet deadlines for meeting requests become subject to special monitoring.

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The Information Commisisoner said: “Looking at this from the outside, most of the public would have the view that more than one in 10 not getting a timely response to a request is not a sign of success."

Denham also warned that the Government’s proposed introduction of fees for those who want to appeal against ICO decisions to the Information Rights Tribunal could lead to “a chill” in requesters using the appeal process.

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