Unfortunately, my second FOI request has resulted in my second refusal to disclose the requested information.
Here is an OCRed transcript of the letter I received this morning. I apologise for any OCR errors – I will check it this evening and convert to PDF / images and correct this post if there are any errors.
2 November 2005
Our Ref: FOl 062
Mr Paul Gregg
Dear Mr Gregg
Thank you for your e-mail of 13th October in which you requested a number of pieces of information in relation to the delivery of broadband services across Northern Ireland. I shall deal with these in the order requested.
The Department has considered your initial request for a copy of the contract between DETI and BT and has decided not to disclose this information. The reasons for withholding the contract are as follows: the contract itself contains a clause specifically obliging both the Department and the Contractor to treat all information as confidential; and, under Section 41 of the Freedom of Information (FOl) Act, the Department believes that, were such information to be disclosed, this would constitute an actionable breach of confidence. As a secondary consideration we believe that release of certain parts of the contract would be likely to prejudice BT�s commercial interests and are therefore also exempt under s43 of the Act.
You also sought information on �when the Department considers the contract completed�. The end date of the contract is April 2009 and the Department will not be in a position to make an absolute judgment on the issue of completeness until that point in time is reached. However, in operating the contract the Department has a number of milestones to consider, one of which will be in December 2005 when broadband should be available to 100% of the population. In addition, a number of systems are in place to ensure the contract is managed effectively and efficiently, including independent verification that the services are being delivered plus a number of in-house government audit procedures.
Your final request was for information relating to the �penalties and remedies for failure to meet the contracted deadlines�. Details of penalties and remedies form an integral part of the contract and, as already stated the Department believes that release of this information would constitute an actionable breach of confidence. Consequently under Section 41 of the FOI Act the Department has decided not to disclose this information.
For you information I attach a Fact Sheet outlining some of the main provisions of the FOl Act. This also gives details of your right of appeal should you not be satisfied with the response from this Department.
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
Dr. Trevor Forsythe
I intend to appeal in the first instance to DETI NI as I do not believe they have correctly followed the Information Commissioner’s guidance on existing confidentiality agreements included in Public Sector contracts.