Publication - FOI/EIR release

COVID-19 related consultancy: FOI release

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

Published:
23 Sep 2021
COVID-19 related consultancy: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100228461
Date received: 5 Aug 2021
Date responded: 2 Sep 2021
Information requested

In relation to this request, and concerning the following two pieces of work referred to in the request:
1) Covid-19 consultancy for health finance
2) Consultant input on current, and potential future, issues affecting adult care home provision as a consequence of Covid-19

For each of the above pieces of work, please could you provide me with:
A) The amount paid, the supplier, a copy of the contract, a copy of the DPO report produced for senior management
B) Any reports, summaries or briefings produced by the consultant

Response

1A) The amount paid was £74,232 excluding VAT. Scottish Government are responsible for 50% of the cost of the contract, with Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership responsible for the other 50%.

The supplier was PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

A copy of the contract is included as an attachment to this response. An exemption under section 38(1) (b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and contact details of individuals, 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. Please note that that original contract referenced three separate pieces of work, however only one piece of work was taken forward. Reference to the two pieces of work not taken forward has therefore been redacted.

Regarding your request for a copy of the DPO report produced for senior management, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because no DPO report was completed on this occasion as it was not a service that was delivered but a document, which was presented to the senior responsible officers on time and in accordance with the requirements the project. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

1B) While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the information you have requested. An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for officials to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including consideration of options for delivery of social care. Disclosing the content of these communications, particularly without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions relate to a sensitive issue such as delivery of social care. This would significantly harm the Government’s ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed decisions.

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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on delivery of social care, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully-informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by PwC. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

2A) The amount paid was £37,000 excluding VAT.

The supplier was Social Care Commissioning and Consultancy Services Ltd.

A copy of the contract is included as an attachment in this response. An exemption under section 38(1) (b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. contact details of individuals, 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.

Regarding your request for a copy of the DPO report produced for senior management, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because the DPO was not completed on this occasion. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

2B) While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the information you have requested. An exemption under sections 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to all of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with consultants on issues affecting adult care home provision will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as issues affecting adult care home provision.

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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy issues affecting adult care home provision, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence,
such as that provided by consultants. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

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Contact

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

The Scottish Government
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