- 17 May 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/01034
Date received: 23 March 2018
Date responded: 23 April 2018
The outline business case to support the detailed consideration to proceed with the re-use of the DWP Central Payments System and the documentation to support the decision to re-use the DWP CPS for a period of 3-5 years, made in October according to detailed parliamentary questions.
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on options appraisals to the Social Security Programme Board will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to sensitive issues.
This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on social security. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the documentation supporting the decision to re-use the Central Payments System (CPS) will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.
I have however provided some of the information that was presented to Programme Board on the 24th of October 2017 regarding the decision to re-use the DWP CPS of which the detailed exemption does not apply. With regards to the outline business case to support the decision, in light of the Programme Board decision we are now moving to develop the outline business case, which will be required to support our detailed consideration of whether or not we proceed with the re-use of CPS.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House