FOI Man explains why he’s a convert to Disclosure Logs
One of the suggestions in my evidence to the Justice Select Committee is that consideration be given to making disclosure logs mandatory for large public sector bodies. It seems sensible to me that if responding to an FOI request is de facto disclosure to the world at large then why don’t we do just that?
I’m not alone – I know that others suggested it too. But why do I think it is such a good idea?
Towards the end of last year I implemented a disclosure log at my own organisation. Most responses are published there. My experience so far has been very positive. I’ve been able to refer several requesters to the information already published, saving my time and allowing a prompt response. Referral to the answers in the disclosure log is much more common than referral to information published through our publication scheme.
The publication scheme, I think, is just too blunt a tool to answer most requests. Most requesters want to drill down further than the published information, which tends to be at a high level. They want to know things that aren’t routinely published.
But having said that, I’ve noticed that in the case of my current organisation at least, many subjects do come up time and time again in requests. So responses published through the disclosure log are actually useful, both to me and to prospective requesters.
So based on my own experience so far, I’d definitely encourage fellow FOI Officers to consider introducing a disclosure log if they haven’t already. Interestingly, when the Protection of Freedoms Bill becomes law, we’ll all be required in effect to maintain a disclosure log for datasets (section 102(4) amends the FOI Act to the effect that publication schemes must include datasets disclosed under the Act), so maybe that will prompt more public bodies to maintain logs for all disclosures.