Robert Toft, Head of Data Sharing at DVLA, was reprimanded by the Information Commissioner for failing to comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the official procedures for dealing with such requests. The full decision dated 20 October 2011 is available on the Information Commissioner's Web Site (reference FS50326639).

The 12 paragraphs of criticism which are reproduced below, detail the extent of the incompetence of DVLA. One perhaps could understand if the errors were committed by a junior employee or someone recently employed by DVLA, but the incompetence was displayed by the Head of Data Sharing. If the person in charge is unable to do the job he is paid to do properly, then what hope is there that DVLA complies with any freedom of information or data protection legislation?

We have not heard of any disciplinary action being taken against Mr Toft for his incompetance. The extracts are as follows:

However, the Commissioner has also decided that the following elements of the request were not dealt with in accordance with the Act:

  • The DVLA's failure to recognise the correct nature of the complainant's first request and to provide information falling within the scope of the request within the required timescales represents a breach of sections 1 (1) and 10 (1) of the Act. The Commissioner requires no steps to be taken.

Although they do not form part of this Decision Notice the Commissioner wishes to highlight the following matters of concern:

  • The Commissioner notes that there were a number of procedural issues regarding the DVLA's handling of this request for information which, although they did not result in breaches additional to those outlined in paragraphs 82 to 84 of this notice, nevertheless resulted in an unsatisfactory response to this request from the outset.
  • For example, the failure to understand the nature of the original request does not represent good practice on the part of the DVLA and falls short of adherence to the Section 45 Code of Practice. In the Commisioner's opinion, the complainant's letter of 16 June 2010 quite clearly requested information in respect of the 'application' of 'Regulation 27' as opposed to its 'compatability' with the directive.
  • This was further compounded when the DVLA interpreted the complainant's letter of 23 July 2010 as a new request for information, and in the process completely discounted the complainant's requests numbered 3,4 and 5.

  • The Commissioner would have anticipated that a large public authority like the DVLA, accustomed to high volumes of requests for information under the Act, would have handled this request in a manner more closely aligned to the recommended standards in the Section 45 Code of Practice and he expects that all future requests should demonstrate closer adherence to a procedural efficiency.

The internal review.

  • Whilst there are no timescales specified in the Act for the communication of the internal review, the Section 45 Code of Practice recommends that the internal review should be considered promptly.
  • The Commissioner has also produced guidance in relation to this matter and considers 20 working days from the date of the request for a review to be a reasonable time in most cases. He does nevertheless recognise that there maybe a small number of cases where it may be reasonable to take longer. The Commissioner's view is that no review should exceed 40 working days and, as a matter of good practice, the Commissioner expects the public authorities to notify the applicants in cases where more time is needed and to provide an explanation of why that is the case.

  • The Commissioner notes that the complainant requested an internal review of the original decision on 23 July 2010. However, as stated in paragraph 20 of the notice, the DVLA did not communicate the outcome of its internal review until 17 November 2010.
  • The Commissioner also notes that even if the DVLA had correctly treated the complainant's letter of 23 July 2010 as a new request for information, his letter dated 2 October 2010 requesting an internal review exceeded the 20 working days considered by the Commissioner as a reasonable time in most cases. The Commissioner notes that the complainant was not notified by the DVLA why any more time was needed.

  • The Commissioner considers that this is an unacceptable responses to the request for an internal review and does not take into account of the Section 45 Code of Practice or his own guidance on the matter. The Commissioner therefore expects the Council to ensure that all future requests for internal reviews are dealt with in accordance with both the Section 45 Code of Practice and his guidance.