A recent world-wide Freedom of Information (FOI) experiment made by the Associated Press (AP) shows the appalling state that governments’ transparency is in, with only 2 in 15 responding to the request in full and in due time.
The experiment began in January 2010 and asked for evidence of terrorism instances and how they were dealt with. Over 100 AP reporters filled requests world-wide asking for the following:
- · evidence of arrests and convictions made to counter terrorism over the past decade.
- · evidence of detainment, with no arrest, on terrorism accounts.
- · evidence to show the status of convictions made for terrorism related crimes over the past decade and details regarding the points of law used for this purpose.
- · the nationality of those arrested under terrorism accounts.
- · records of names, dates and circumstances for all terrorism related arrests made over the past decade.
- · any audits and research of countering-terrorism made over the past decade.
Out of the 105 countries that are covered to some extend by freedom of information laws and were thus asked to respond to the above, only 14 gave useful answers in the required time frame, with a further 38 replying partially. However, the whole picture is not that straightforward. You can check AP’s interactive map division of type of responses received along with expert analysis here.
According to the AP reporter drawing on the results of this test, new-born democracies are more responsive than older and more established. He writes: “Newer democracies were in general more responsive than some developed ones. Guatemala confirmed the AP request in 72 hours and sent all documents in 10 days. Turkey sent spreadsheets and data within seven days. Mexico posted responses on the Web. By comparison, Canada asked for a 200-day extension. The FBI in the United States responded six months late with a single sheet with four dates, two words and a large section blanket. Austria never responded at all.”
The AP is now looking for its next subject to investigate at a global level. You can contribute to their ideas board on their Facebook page.
Here are the latest posts across the Help Me Investigate: Networks sites on health, education, and welfare. Highlights include Ben Harrow’s series following the money that universities receive for students, Rebecca Ratcliffe’s investigation into the special education system, and Kristina Khoo’s background to her investigative documentary on homelessness. If you want to contribute to any of the sites, or the main Help Me Investigate blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are particularly looking for someone to manage the Health site, so if you have an interest in that area, please let us know.
- Links/Data: Ofsted’s 2011 annual report and Schools Minister response
- The price of a University drop-out 3: Exactly how much is each student worth?
- Data: National Audit Office assess support for young adults with SEN
- Investigating the special education system 2: what the data shows
- Links: Public Accounts Committee on how funding is allocated
- The making of an investigative documentary – Part II
- Data and link: Questions to ask about benefit fraud in Nottingham
- The making of an investigative documentary – Part I
- Link: The ESA ‘Fit For Work’ vicious circle
The following video?was previously published?on the Help Me Investigate Health blog. In?it?Deborah Cohen, an investigative journalist with the British Medical Journal, explains some of the things to look out for when asking questions about the NHS:?
- Data: Free Schools taking fewer deprived children
- New education data promised on pupils? progress
- How-to: find out academy charity salaries
- Investigating the special education system 1: inclusion statistics
- The price of a University drop-out 2: how do you work out the numbers?
- Links: How Seattle journalist got school censorship scoop
- FOI legislation opens up UCAS and higher education?
- Links: unreliable data on children?s services (FactCheck)
- Young learners? data released
- How To: Find out when the Department for Education will publish its next stats report
- Links: Andrew Lansley ordered to reveal NHS reforms risks report
- Referral to Treatment times (RTT) per PCT March to August 2011
- Advice on investigating health, from the BMJ?s Deborah Cohen
- Patient safety data October 2010 to March 2011
- Data: Freedom of information request statistics for NHS Trusts (as of 23/10/2011)
- Links: NHS payoffs and middle class drinking
Last week saw another breakthrough for the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) was brought under its scope. Aiming for “transparency and openness” the FOS is to become public as it was suggested in January this year.
Still, the FOS will not be fully public as there are restrictions to what questions it can answer. To start with, personal information will not be disclosed (as it falls under the Data Protection Act) and any information given in confidence or details that fall under other Acts will also remain private.
According to ifaonline.co.uk the FOS said that it “already accepts and fulfils requests for information.” In response a comment on their website reads: “You learn something new every day. I thought FOS stood for Furtive, Obstructive and Secretive.”
The Independent Financial Advisors website has put together a list of question for the FOS (which you can find here) and some tips for “good requests” that include being specific and asking for documents that do exist rather than documents that might exist or that should exist. (For more general tips on FOIs check James Ball’s on Help Me Investigate.)
Finally, as the FOS prouds itself for answering over 1 million enquires a year, do you reckon that number might be doubled now?
Want to know more about how – and if – the education system works? Today we’re launching a new site to help people investigate issues relating to the education sector.
Help Me Investigate Education will provide sources of data and information on the education sector; profiles of the key players; useful laws and regulations to be aware of; and updates on education-related stories and investigations both in the mainstream media and blogs.
The site is part of the new Help Me Investigate: Networks project.
We are looking for contributors so if you are passionate about health get in touch.