Transport for London complaint

My complaint to the Information Commissioner resulted in an article in today’s Guardian by Hugh Muir: Secrecy rebuke over contracts for tube.

See the full article here.

The complaint involved TfL’s failure to make public its controversial public-private partnership contracts and funding formula for the Tube, which it had committed to doing so by January 2004 in its legally binding Publication Scheme.

While it is admirable that TfL agreed to publish these contracts (many public authorities are still refusing to do so) the fact remains that a commitment to openness is not the same as actual openness. The public faces the ultimate burden of funding this controversial way of running London’s tube and we have a right to know how our money is being spent.

I first asked for these contracts last spring. My requests were ignored for several months. Finally, the Freedom of Information Officer wrote back apologising for the delay. “It’s been partly caused by ill health and a handover to a new FOI Publication Scheme Coordinator,” he said. He couldn’t give me the contracts, but helpfully informed me that, “This issue has been escalated within General Counsel for resolution.” I’ve no idea what this means but it certainly doesn’t mean quick action. By July, I still hadn’t received an answer.

I then filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner who is the watchdog for the Freedom of Information Act, Data Protection and soon the new Environmental Information Regulations. It took four months, several chasing emails and telephone calls before I received the result of their investigation on 5 November.

Frankly this is unacceptable. If this is the kind of time-period on offer when there are almost no cases, what can we expect after 1 January 2005 when the Information Commissioner begins receiving the suspected “onslaught” of cases?

I asked Information Commissioner Richard Thomas about this delay on Thursday at a Parliamentary meeting and he told me he was surprised at the length of time the investigation took and would look into it.

Meanwhile, Transport for London is now quite helpful, and I am scheduled to look through the contracts next week. I will post the results here.

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One Response to “Transport for London complaint”

  1. George says:

    Did they have to compete for said contracts?

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