Rising complaints leads to naming and shaming of worst performing Scottish public authorities

Public bodies that consistently fail to comply with Freedom of Information legislation are to be named and shamed as part of a crackdown on the way they operate, according to the Scotsman.

In response to a rising level of complaints about councils, police forces and other authorities not responding to demands for information, Kevin Dunion, Scotland's Information Commissioner, is to launch an inquiry into their performance. Public bodies that do not meet strict targets will be identified and, in cases where they are guilty of extreme negligence, enforcement powers will be used to implement change.

The Scotsman reports that appeals to the Scottish Information Commissioner which involve organisations failing to respond to entirely legitimate demands for information under the FOI Act are rising steadily over a year after the law came into force. Around one quarter of the 158 complaints received so far in 2006 have concerned a complete failure by public authorities to answer requests - this is up from 18 per cent of all appeals last year.

With complaints running at twice the highest predicted level, the Commissioner's office is struggling to fulfil its role as enforcers. The Commissioner has failed to meet his target of settling appeals within four months in 20% of all cases.

The Commissioner, who has a budget of £1.2 million, is hiring an extra three investigators and will ask the Scottish Parliament for more funding.

An increasing number of organisations are failing to comply with the law and among those held by Mr Dunion to be culpable on at least one occasion since the FOI Act was introduced are the Scottish Executive, the Strathclyde, Tayside and Grampian police forces, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, the Crown Office, Audit Scotland, Scottish Water, the Scottish Prison Service and 14 councils, including Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Complaints soar as public's right to know is denied (The Scotsman, 17 April 2006)