Freedom of information is better value than most government

In a week when the Government is claiming that £35 million spent on answering FOI requests is a reason for curbing our right to know, it’s worth considering where that cost comes from. Of course, the figure is puffed up for propaganda purposes. But, as Computer Weekly reports, ministers are also happy to retain expensive lawyers in order to prevent documents being released from the Gateway review on ID cards.

The review was funded with our taxes, and the government is spending more of our taxes to deny us the right to see the results of our largess.

The review puts the cost of introducing this unwelcome intrusion into our lives at £5.4 billion. Compare that figure, and the collossal amounts wasted by the National Health Service, the Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Defence, and a myriad of bungling, spendthrift projects undertaken with little public scrutiny and oversight, and it’s clear that our right to know, in order to expose and criticise this waste, is a small cost well worth paying.

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One Response to “Freedom of information is better value than most government”

  1. Td says:

    As Wat Tyler pointed out on his blog, Burning Our Money, £35m pa is peanuts in the scheme of things.

    But according to the report, a large proportion of the costs can be attributed to internal reviews (you can request a review of a decision not to supply information): ‘On average internal reviews cost £1,208 compared to £254 for an initial request’.

    So it seems to me that one way to reduce costs would be to cut down on the number of refusals!

    The report claims that MPs are a key category of FoI requestor. Unfortunately the report does not mention the proportion of requests made by MPs (however it does seem to single out journalists).

    MPs have made complaints in Parliament about having to use the Act to request information that they believe should be supplied to them as a matter of course. This suggests another potential saving.

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