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  • Awaiting a Tribunal with Godric

    Posted on February 4th, 2010 admin 3 comments
    Godric Smith. Paid £225,000 last year. Should we know how good a job he is doing as Communications boss at the ODA?

    Godric Smith. Paid £225,000 last year. Should we know how good a job he is doing as Communications boss at the ODA?

    I’ve been in business as DataNews for more than a year now and have had a number of cases filter through the office of the Information Commissioner.

    Some I’ve won and a couple I have lost, but up until Christmas there was not a case that I was prepared to go to the barricades for and pursue through to the Information Tribunal.

    Well, I have now lodged an appeal with the new Tribunal office in relation to a complaint I made about the way my FoI request was dealt with by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).

    The ODA is the organisation tasked with spending £9billion of public money building the site for the 2012 Olympics in Stratford, north-east London.

    I should say at this point that I am NOT anti-sport or anti-Olympics and have no grudge against the ODA, indeed I grew up a javelin’s throw away from the site of the 2012 games.

    What gets my goat in this particular case is the privacy that is afforded to some of the country’s highest paid public servants.

    David Higgins, the Aussie Chief Executive of the ODA, has cost the organisation more than £1million in salary and bonus payments in just the last two years.

    His basic salary in 07/08 was £373k plus a tasty £205k bonus and in 08/09 it was £384k + £209k bonus.

    What I wanted to know was the criteria for paying Mr Higgins these huge bonus payments – especially given their huge size and the fact that the ODA cannot be accurately assessed as being a success or not until the opening ceremony of the Games.

    My request asked for the criteria on which his bonus payment was assessed, whether he qualified for 100% of his potential bonus payment and if he didn’t qualify for the whole lot which areas he was deemed as coming up short in. My argument is that this is no longer personal information, as it might well be for an employee further down the food chain.

    In the rarefied atmosphere of the ODA boardroom we the public deserve and have the right to know what he is being paid a bonus for and more importantly what he is NOT being paid a bonus for.

    The Commissioner looked at the arguments and ruled against me saying that the information I wanted was still subject to a S.40 (Personal Information) exemption as to supply me with the figures would be a breach of the Data Protection Act.

    I also asked for similar data in relation to Godric Smith, a former resident of Prime Minister Blair’s press office and now the £192,000 + £33 bonus Head of Communications for the ODA. My request for his bonus criteria were also refused on the same basis, although Mr Smith wrote the Commissioner a letter stating how the release of his bonus details would “cause unwarranted interference”.

    So, I have now embarked upon a battle to see if I can overturn the Commissioner’s decision and the ODA secrecy wishes at the Tribunal.

    I think this is a key point because if these sort of details cannot be extracted from people in positions like Higgins and Smith then we might as well wave the white flag and go home.

    For some reason the Commissioner has not (I can’t find it) put the decision notice on the website so at the moment I cannot provide people with a link to the document. When it does go up there I’ll post it up. It is Ref: FS50259954

    Also I’ll be putting in a request to the Commissioner asking for a copy of Godric Smith’s letter. See the link [here].

    As I will probably be up against somebody from 11KBW being paid thousands to keep the information secret I’d be grateful for any help or advice.

    NOTE: Apologies for not updating the site much over Christmas/New Year. Pressure of work. But I hope to get back into the swing of things again now.


    3 responses to “Awaiting a Tribunal with Godric”

    1. Martin Rosenbaum

      The ICO still hasn’t published on its website its decision notice in one of my cases - see this - even though the notice is dated 22 December, over six weeks ago.

    2. Difficult to give advice until the DN is published, and I’m sure any that is given would be of the learning-to-suck-eggs type for you.

      It will obviously boil down to a straight Schedule 2(6) DPA balancing exercise - whether your legitimate interests as FOIA requester outweigh those of Mssrs Higgins and Smith as data subjects. It’s interesting the ICO has not upheld your complaint - I would have thought the seniority/public-facing role would count for a lot in favour of disclosure.

      Ultimately, I’m not sure there will be a great deal you can do for the Tribunal - it might just be a case of letting them reconsider the facts, and hoping they arrive at a different decision.

    3. An excellent request and one that will hopefully force the ‘blanket’ application of s40 in relation to bonus payments to be opened up to scrutiny.

      A key factor is the size of the sums involved. I cannot see how such levels of salary enhancement from the public purse should not be open to public scrutiny.

      We should have the right to see whether big earners are deserving of their bonuses and the extent to which they have met or failed in their targets, and indeed whether the targets warrant such bonuses in the first place. These arguments will play a role in establishing the legitimacy of the public right to know under FOI as the DPA schedule 2 para 6(1) condition and the extent to which ‘unwarranted interference’ is engaged.

      I wish you well in your case and will follow this with much interest.

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