Date received: 15 May 2019
Date responded: 7 Jun 2019
Access to an unrestricted database that holds all the contracting authority’s live/active frameworks.
I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed, with modifications.
In considering our handling of your initial request, I have focussed on two key questions:
1) Was Section 25 of FOISA correctly applied?
In response to your initial request for information, you were informed that the information you had requested was already in the public domain, and that under Section 25 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information where the requester can reasonably obtain the information without making a request for it.
I have reviewed the information you have requested and have concluded that, as you were advised, the vast majority of information is already otherwise publicly available on the Scottish Government website, at the link you were provided with, on the Public Contracts Scotland website, or in the Official Journal of the European Union.
I e-mailed you on 21 May to set out my view that in order to identify and locate all of the information that you asked for, we should have asked you for some further information, so that we could be clear what you were looking for. In particular, we should have asked for you to clarify what you meant by your point 10: “Weblink to Framework Agreement”. You clarified on 29 May that this particular request would have been satisfied by a link to web pages about each framework, an example of which I gave you in my e-mail. This information is already publicly available, and you would have been able to access all of this information from the Scottish Government website to which you were sent a link in our original response, but to be helpful, I have included a full list of such links at Annex A to this letter.
Information which is already publicly available is exempt under Section 25 of FOISA, and therefore insofar as that information is publicly available, I am satisfied that Section 25 of FOISA applies.
I have, however, identified a small number of pieces of information which you requested which will not be available at these sources, and which we should have forwarded to you separately. I am sorry that we did not do this originally. Further information on these is at Annex B to this letter.
2) Should we have sent you the information in a particular format?
The substance of your request for a review of the handling of your request is that you would like the publicly-available information to be provided to you in a spread sheet.
Section 1 of FOISA entitles you to request information, and Section 11 of FOISA entitles you to express a preference to receive that information in a particular format. There is a duty on public bodies receiving notice of such a preference to give effect to it as far as possible.
In considering your request, I have also taken case law into consideration, however. In particular, I consider that Glasgow City Council v Scottish Information Commissioner is relevant. In this judgment, the Court of Session confirmed at paragraph 56 that “where Section 25 applies, section 1 is disapplied by virtue of Section 2. If Section 25 applies, therefore, the applicant is not entitled to be given the information. Section 11, which concerns the means by which the information is provided to the applicant, is accordingly inapplicable”1.
Because I am satisfied that the vast majority of information you requested was already otherwise available, and that the exemption in Section 25 was correctly applied, I am also therefore satisfied that we are not obliged to provide you with that information in a different format.
You may be interested, to learn, however, that much of the information you seek is already downloadable in spread sheet format. Public bodies in Scotland are required by the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to publish and maintain a contracts register with details of all regulated contracts. You can find the Scottish Government’s contracts register at: www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/Contracts/Contracts_Search.aspx?AuthID=AA10482
You will notice that just above the first entry are links enabling you to download the contracts register as either an Excel or a CSV file. These files contain more information than is visible in the entries on the website. Column N specifies whether each entry relates to a framework or not, and you can filter out contracts which are not frameworks on this basis. Please note that this will not be a complete record of all Scottish Government frameworks, however, as the requirement to make an entry in the contracts register only applies to regulated contracts (i.e. those worth more than £50k for goods and services, or £2 million for works) which were advertised after 18 April 2016. Information on other Scottish Government frameworks is available via the links set out in Annex A to this letter.
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 Andrews House