Information Commissioner tells Capacitybuilders to release document

Infrastructure agency had refused to produce briefing paper after request by Third Sector under Freedom of Information Act


The Information Commissioner has upheld an appeal by Third Sector against the refusal by Capacitybuilders to release a briefing document requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Capacitybuilders had claimed exemption for a briefing about the closure of the Third Sector Leadership Centre on the grounds that its release "would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice" by officials.

But the commissioner, Christopher Graham, ruled that it was not "objectively reasonable" for Matt Leach, the outgoing chief executive of the non-departmental government agency, to argue that the release of the document would have that effect.

The document contained advice to the board on how to handle the announcement about the controversial decision to withdraw funding from the leadership centre, which closed in March last year.

The commissioner's decision said he had concluded there was nothing specific in the document that would have come as a surprise to observers.He rejected the agency's contention that disclosure "would have an inhibiting effect on the frankness and candour of officers when providing advice to the board in the future".

The decision noted that the documents Capacitybuilders did release, and notification of refusal to release other documents, were not issued within the required 20 days.

It also said the agency contravened the code of practice by not having a procedure for dealing with complaints about FoI requests and by refusing to conduct an internal review of its decision. Adequate records about Leach's decision were not kept.

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