If you are a researcher, a campaigner, community activist, or a concerned individual - Freedom of Information Requests,(FOIs) have become a very useful tool indeed in helping us get to the bottom of things and in some cases as it happens it could even have far reaching outcomes, when challenging the release or refusal of information in the high court.
I am sure many would be aware of the http://www.whatdotheyknow.com website, if you have not, then I would like to encourage you to have a look, particularly if for whatever reason you plan to submit a FOI request to Haringey, or any other organization.
The benefit of using this site to submit a FOI request is that the answers you get are ARCHIVED, PUBLIC and SEARCHABLE and that is far more powerful tool when it comes to research of current issues and topics of concern.
When I mentioned the high court case above, I was referring to the Judicial Review mounted by the SAVE ALLY PALLY campaign, which ultimately stopped to flogging of the peoples' palace for peanuts. The whole basis for that legal challenge was the refusal of both Haringey and the Charity Commission to release information requested by the campaigners using a FOI request.
This was a clear-cut case of refusal to release the information. But what happens when a request is answered? Can we trust the answers we get? How can we know for sure that the information released is indeed the correct, complete and full as we have requested? Does anyone ever check it?
The simple and short answer is YES!!! I DID CHECK IT, and When it comes to Haringey Council: NO!!!! YOU CAN NOT TRUST THE ANSWERS YOU GET.
The only reason I am able to state this with confidence, is as a result of using http://www.whatdotheyknow.com In this case, I was not aiming to prove a point, it was more a case of stumbling on it. I didn't have to try very hard to find 2 very obvious examples, I hate to think what can be found if one was really looking...
I will be interested to know what do you think should be done about it?
John, did you use http://www.whatdotheyknow.com for your foi?
If so, could you post a link to it.
I wonder if your case is not one of the 2 that I found, or is it a 3rd example?
So your case is the 3rd so far...
I strongly support your advice for people to use WhatDoTheyKnow.com. It can help us all add to and pool knowledge available in the public domain. It also means more eyes and brains helping to cross-check what public bodies say — especially if there are discrepancies in the information supplied.
But there's one aspect of WhatDoTheyKnow.com requests which I find disappointing. A lot of questions seem to come from journalists and researchers as part of a far wider investigation they're doing. And while they're entitled to protect their own work and intellectual property, it would be nice to know about their findings after these are eventually published.
Thank you Alan,
You write: "It also means more eyes and brains helping to cross-check what public bodies say — especially if there are discrepancies in the information supplied."
Here we have a case where the eyes and brain have crossed-checked and the public body - Haringey, have found out to fail in their duty to follow the letter of the law. In one case it is discrepancies but in the other it is a case of providing diametrically opposing information one year a part.
The question is where do we go from here?
My main concern is that next time we face a situation where a FOI request is critical again - that we are able to use it as intended and able to TRUST the information we receive to reflect true facts, full and accurate information.
As it stands can we have confidence in Haringey ability to fulfil their duty?
For the record the 2 cases I refer to are:
Case No 1
Details and links are published at the top part of the page here:
Case No 2
To my amazement I also found 2 IDENTICAL FOI requests made one year a part, where Haringey response could not have been more contradictory and are provided by the same officer - a Mr. Andrews Ian
The 2 FOI were made by 2 different people, requesting details on how much money Haringey spent on leadership training of councillors and stuff with the Semi secretive charity called "Common Purpose":
“In respect of your recent request I can confirm that London Borough ofFOI 2
Haringey has never procured service from the charity known as Common
Purpose in any of the years quoted 1997 - date.
I trust this information fully answers your request.”
I write in response to your above referenced request regarding Payments to `Common Purpose'.
I have been able to confirm, from an archived database that £18,682.50 was paid to `Common Purpose' in the period 5th November 1999 to 4th September 2002. No payments have been made since that date. Unfortunately the actual documents are no longer available and have been destroyed, in line with the Councils document retention policy, however below is a schedule of payments made during that period.
Followed by details of invoice numbers and amounts paid. Which can be found here:
Every department in haringey council is bent, they make up rules as they go along and thats why i am not surprised information they have given is contradictory. 'contradiction' is Haringey councils middle name!
My top department offenders list
These departments are well over due some serious investigation!
Just thought i'ld add that x