The Freedom of Information Act came into effect on the 1st January 2005. Introduced as a means to increase openness and transparency in public authorities, the legislation provides a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities.
To ensure compliance with the Act the University must:
The Publication Scheme
The University makes a great deal of information available through its Publication Scheme which has been developed in line with the guidance of the Information Commissioner.
Freedom of Information Requests
Whilst much information relating to the University is available on the Publication Scheme, there may be instances whereby individuals and organisations may wish to receive information that is not included within the scheme; under such circumstances it would be necessary to make a Freedom of Information request.
Requests for information made under the Freedom of Information act must:
Individuals may receive requests for information that are provided as a matter of routine, such as; course information and general enquiries. Whilst these requests may be emailed or received by letter they are not requests for information as per the definition of the Act and should be dealt with as normal.
However, any requests for information that;
should be referred to the Information Governance Team in order that any compliance issues are considered.
Requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act can be made by any individual or body, anywhere in the world and do not have to make reference to the Act.
Requests for information under the Act can be sent via email to email@example.com or by post to:
Information Compliance Team,
University of South Wales
Timescales for response
Any written request received by the University will be responded to within 20 working days. Upon receiving a request the University will acknowledge the request. If any clarification is required, or, it is considered that owing to the volume of information requested a charge is necessary to cover costs, then the requestor will be contacted and the 20 day countdown would not begin until the requestor has provided clarification or paid the appropriate fees.
As there is a limited amount of time within which a request must be dealt with, any member of staff receiving such a request should ensure that it is passed without delay to the Information Governance Team. Requests can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exemptions from disclosure
The University takes its obligations under the Act seriously and will endeavour to make all information available. However, not all information can be released to the public. Under the Act there are a number of exemptions that can be used if it is considered that disclosure of that information at that time would be harmful to the wider public interest. If an exemption is used then an explanation will also be provided to detail the reasons why it is appropriate.
Responding to Freedom of Information requests
The Information Governance Team are responsible for providing responses to requests. In responding to Freedom of Information requests, the Information Governance team will seek to obtain the information from the department or faculty that is necessary to respond to a request.
As there are only 20 working days within which to provide a response, it is essential that staff provide a timely response in order that the statutory deadline is met.
Under the Act, it is a criminal offence for anyone to tamper with or destroy documents that are existing records that have been requested if this is done with the intention of preventing disclosure.
The Information Commissioner recently produced guidance on responding to formal requests for research information following on from a series of requests received by the University of East Anglia.