Friday, January 18, 2008

The case of the £13.7 million and the Freedom of Information request...

Part two of the post we promised over a week ago now follows (part one is here).

Anyone who has followed the Public Inquiry (PI) will know that one individual has been as tenacious as a terrier in his fight to uncover all of the sleaze, lies and obfuscation surrounding the bypass. John Hall gave us the lowdown on his attempts to get the figures from the Highways Agency in his own words:

1. I forwarded a FOI (Freedom of Information) request to the DfT (Department for Transport) on 7th November 2007.

2. After 10 days it was referred to the HA (Highways Agency) Manchester.

3. The HA tried to put me off by stating my request would cost too much and take up too much important time for them and asked me doctor my FOI to reduce its content.

4. I played their game and stipulated I wanted ALL communications between the DfT and HA between February 2007 and October 2007.

5. I received a response from the HA dated 21st December with the breakdown of the costs of the preparation and promotion of the PI evidence they submitted.

6. The letter which accompanied the page of costs is not the one on the HA website or the Persona Associates website but although it has no name and address, it refers to another objector's (A) FOI request submitted on November 7th. This is not accurate because I know that objector (A) never sought this FOI request and knew nothing of it.

7. Another objector (B) says they submitted a similar FOI request in October, but received the same December 21st HA response to themselves with the same reference number as objector (B) and acknowledging 'their request of November 7th'. How this could happen is anyone's guess but something doesn't ring true.

8. My letter dated 21st December 2007 from the HA includes the costs data we now all know. HOWEVER the letter states that my request for all correspondence & emails between the DfT and HA is being considered as inappropriate and as 'not being in the Public Interest' and will be answered in late January 2008.

9. The FOI Commissioner has now received all documents, emails etc relating to my November 7th 2007 request because (a) my request was not actioned within the appropriate statutory time limit, (b) has still not been fully dealt with, and because (c) the full information I require, other than the costs already received, is vitally important evidence required for the Public Inquiry. Furthermore, it "is" of Public Interest and I believe that the info the DfT/HA are now attempting to hide would be instrumental in proving duplicity and manipulations of a Public Inquiry instigated by the DfT. I now await the outcome of Information Commissioner's investigation and deliberations, but I will be fighting this 100% to get this important evidence to present to the Inspector.

So there you have it. Both the Inquiry and the blog will hear a lot more from John over the coming months.

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