Question: When is an FOI request not an FOI request?
Answer: When it’s a marketing ploy…

“Could you please answer the following questions

1. Which of the following options best describes the Organisation’s policy for recruiting interim/contract staff:
a) We have a documented policy to recruit via specific agencies
b) We have a documented policy to recruit using [our company]
c) We have no fixed documented policy for recruiting interim or
contract staff

2. Is your HR Director / Head of HR aware of [our company] as an alternative to paying for recruiting interim staff?

3. Does your website contain a link to [our website]?”

A fellow FOI Officer received this recently. As they commented in their email to me, “an advert/spam email quite creatively wrapped up in an FOI request so we’re forced to respond to it.”

Thankfully we FOI Officers are equally creative. Quite rightly, the response made clear that whether the Director was “aware of something” was information not held. And question 3 was refused on the basis that the information was otherwise available to the requester (section 21). As the Officer commented, “A good use of our time I’m sure you’ll agree.”

And Government wonders why public authorities might be reluctant to bend over backwards to help businesses using FOI.


  1. How did you answer question 1? Just supply the policy?

    Do you get many FOI requests which are more like surveys wanting yes/no answers?

    Perhaps the most ‘barmy’ I’ve dealt with wanted to know how many complaints received about ghosts/hauntings and a request for a report dated 2012/13.

    Mr Gatsby
  2. I like the surveys which contain questions about what our organisation “thinks” will happen in relation to the latest Government policy on something. Opinion != information …

    (I remember the hauntings request Mr Gatsby, gave us all a good laugh at least!)

    S Jones