Publication - FOI/EIR release

Civil servants who hold external roles with external firms: FOI Review

Published: 24 Aug 2021

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
24 Aug 2021
Civil servants who hold external roles with external firms: FOI Review
FOI reference: FOI / 202100211948 - Review
Date received: 10 Jun 2021
Date responded: 19 Aug 2021
Information requested

Your request, reference 202100194247
1) The number of civil servants currently (as of 14 April, 2021) employed by the Scottish Government who hold or held within the last five years, external roles with external firms.

1a) Please break this down by directorate, and provide details of the external roles held by each civil servant if they hold one, the date on which the role was approved or the dates the role was held.

2) Please provide the internal process for approving these roles.

Your request for review, reference 202100211948
“While I understand the application of the personal data exemption, the use of the exemption renders the information close to useless. Either senior civil servants should be named alongside their redacted external interests, or the external interests should be available unredacted. As it stands, it is impossible to gain anything from this disclosure and I would ask that the application of the personal data exemption is reviewed.”

Response

Further to my letter of 18 June 2021, I have now completed my review, reference 202100211948, of our response to your request, reference 202100194247, under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

I have been asked to look at your request afresh, to decide whether the original response should be confirmed, with or without modifications, as appropriate, or that a fresh decision should be substituted. I can confirm that I was not involved in the handling or decision-making around the original response.
I have concluded that a different decision should be substituted. Unfortunately it has taken longer than expected to reconsider the information requested, I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

In conducting my review I have taken account of the points you raised in your request for review and fully reconsidered the circumstances of the case. I have reconsidered all of the information previously withheld under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) and in doing so I have determined that we were not entitled to apply this exemption to the withheld information in its entirety.

I have concluded that all of the information held in relation to senior civil servants, apart from references to other individuals, and some of the information held in relation to less senior officials can now be disclosed where it is in scope of the request, see below. I therefore enclose a copy of this information.

I am however satisfied that an exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) continues to apply to information held which if disclosed would release personal information, which is not otherwise publicly available of officials below senior civil service level. These officials would have had a higher expectation of privacy and would not have expected information which concerns their private lives to be disclosed.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to the information redacted because it is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

I have also applied an exemption under section 39(1) to part of a single entry. This exemption applies because disclosure of the withheld information would be likely to, endanger the safety of an individual.

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. However, we consider that there is a greater public interest in safeguarding the health and safety of individuals.

In addition, I have also concluded that some of the information previously identified and disclosed would not fall within the scope of your request. This is because this information does not detail ‘external roles with external firms’ held by a Scottish Government employee or where the date the role was held fell outside of the time period of your request. For example I do not consider volunteering in charitable organisations to fall within the scope of ‘external roles with external firms’ and have therefore considered this type of information to fall outwith the scope of your request.
You may wish to be aware that, as you have asked for roles that were held within the last five years, an entry on the spreadsheet does not necessarily indicate that the role is presently held by the civil servant in question.

About FOI

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.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG