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The Freedom of Information Act and procurement
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) may affect suppliers and contractors to the council. Procurement related information is likely to be the subject of a number of requests under the FOI.
A request can be made for any recorded information which is held by the authority or by persons providing services for us, and that information must be provided unless it is covered by one of the Acts exemptions.
Requests for information are retrospective which means that any information an external party has provided in the past or may provide in the future will be subject to FOI e.g. contracts, tender documents, development proposals. Personal data is exempt under FOI, because it is already within the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Contracts, letters, faxes, emails, voicemail messages and even handwritten notes such as post-it notes are all subject to request.
The Council, on receipt of a request, has to confirm or deny if it holds the information and then communicate the information, all within 20 working days.
Only the Council is required to respond to requests, so the requestor cannot apply to the supplier or contractor (or potential contractor) directly. However, any information held by another body on behalf of the Council is considered to be subject to FOI.
If a request for information is received which involves your company or contract and we intend to release the information, we will inform you by post. This way if you have any objections to the disclosure you can inform us. This is particularly important in considering whether the exemptions apply. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the authority in determining whether or not to release the information. Every request for information will be examined on its own merits and the provisions of the Act applied.
Protecting your confidential information
When tendering or entering into a contract with the authority suppliers may wish to ensure that their commercial interests are protected or this could result in commercially sensitive information relating to the suppliers business being disclosed. Contractors and tenderers should consider what information may be confidential or commercially sensitive and advise the Council in writing.
- When tendering, potential suppliers may wish to identify sensitive information when forwarding material to the Council. It is the responsibility of the tenderer to clearly mark any information contained in their tender proposals or contracts that is commercially sensitive or is a trade secret and bring this to the attention of the Council in writing. Reasons why the information is commercially sensitive/trade secret must also be included.
- Suppliers may wish to agree a list of potentially exempt information to attach to a contract e.g. pricing, innovative or original processes or products.
- The Council will also, where possible, notify suppliers of information requests and seek the agreement of the company before disclosing the information to someone else.
Where can I get more information?
Find out more about the Freedom of Information Act as well as Data Protection. If you have any queries, contact our procurement team or Information Governance Officer.
You can also find a wealth of information on the Information Commissioner's Office website.