The Auditor General and the Wales Audit Office recognise the value of openness in promoting trust and accountability in public business, enabling better public understanding of how public authorities carry out their duties and in deterring impropriety and poor performance.
This summary sets out our general approach to achieving compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and related legislation, as well as achieving openness generally.
General approach to openness
1. In addition to compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and related legislation, we are committed to:
a. the use of clear, plain language, including the explanation of technical terms for the benefit of the lay reader
b. the publication of concise, accurate, fair and well-structured reports
c. the public reporting of findings, except where there are legal or public interest reasons for not doing so.
General approach to compliance with freedom of information legislation
2. We will as far as is reasonable and practicable:
a. provide requesters and potential requesters with advice and assistance in their requests for information
b. consult relevant third parties regarding requests
c. provide as much information as it legally can without causing undue harm to the public interest
d. respond quickly
e. provide information in the form that requesters prefer
f. investigate and provide considered responses to complaints about our handling of requests and other freedom of information-related matters, such as its publication scheme.
Providing requesters and potential requesters with advice and assistance
3. We will as far as is reasonable and practicable, provide requesters and potential requesters with advice and assistance in relation to their requests for information. Members of the public requiring advice in respect of access to information should contact 029 2032 0500.
4. Where a person is unable, for example, because of impairment (disability), to make requests under the Freedom of Information Act in writing, we will send a written note of any telephone request to the person to confirm what was requested, which will be accepted as a written request when returned to us.
Consulting relevant third parties regarding requests
5. Disclosure may affect the legal rights of third parties, such as where information is subject to the common law duty of confidence, or where it constitutes personal data within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998. So as to help ensure that such rights are given due regard, we will consult with relevant third parties, except where this is impractical or disproportionately expensive. In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the determination of whether information should be disclosed, will, however, remain our decision.
Providing information lawfully and in the public interest
6. Overall, we will disclose requested information that we hold except where:
a. it is information intended for future publication and it is reasonable to wait for publication
b. it would involve providing information that is not only reasonably accessible by other means, but which is also most appropriately obtained by those other means. This includes information available in items on the our publication scheme and from commercial sources
c. despite assistance, insufficient description is given to identify the information, an applicable fee is not paid, or where requests are vexatious or repeated
d. disclosure of the information is prohibited or would cause harm in relation to matters for which the Freedom of Information Act provides exemptions, subject, where applicable, to public interest tests. This includes personal information, information provided in confidence and information where disclosure would, or would be likely to, cause harm to the Wales Audit Office's or other external auditors' audit functions.
7. Where we refuse to provide information, our response will set out how to make a complaint.
Wider disclosure through our disclosure log
8. Having responded to an information request, we will consider whether it is in the public interest to publish the relevant information in our disclosure log or by other means. The Information Commissioner regards this as good practice. If we conclude that there is appreciable public interest in wider disclosure, we will, at our discretion, publish accordingly. We will not, however, publish the following information:
a. Personal information about a requester or any other person, where wider disclosure would be unfair and so breach the first data protection principle. In line with this, we will generally not disclose the identity or other personal information of requesters and other persons. We will, however, disclose the identity of requesters where there is public interest in doing so and this would be fair; for example, if the request is from a public body or holder of public office. Where we are to disclose personal information, we will, wherever practicable, inform the relevant persons before disclosure.
b. Information provided in confidence outside the provisions of access to information legislation.
c. Information that is defamatory.
d. Information which if disclosed beyond a requester, would infringe third party copyright.
9. We will acknowledge your request within five working days.
10. We will respond to requests for information within 20 working days, or 60 working days in specific circumstances. A working day means any day other than a Saturday, Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday or a day which is a bank holiday. Where the period is extended, the requester will be informed of the delay and will be given an estimated response date.
11. If a note of a request made by telephone has been prepared by staff on behalf of a requester, the 20 working day timescale for response takes effect from the date on which the requester confirms the note of the information requested.
12. We cannot provide information that we do not hold. If another public authority holds the information, and if it seems that the requester is unlikely to object, we may consult the body and transfer the request if appropriate. The requester will be advised of the transfer. Alternatively, we will advise the requester that the information is not held by us and suggest that a request be made to the authority that is likely to hold it.
Local government appointed auditor information
13. It should be noted that local government audit information is often only held by auditors appointed by the Auditor General and, if so, it is not held by us. Up until April 2014, local government auditors were appointed by the Auditor General, and where such appointments remain, they are separate office holders and are not public authorities under the Freedom of Information Act. There is therefore no right of access under that Act to such information. We will forward requests for such information to the relevant auditor. However, except in relation to the requester's personal information (and possibly environmental information), disclosure by the appointed auditor will be discretionary and subject to the restrictions on disclosure provided by section 54 of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004.
Providing information in the preferred form
14. Requesters will generally be provided information in either Welsh or English, and in either electronic form or paper, according to their preference. Most information will be made available electronically, but equivalent single paper copies will be available usually without charge. We will also make large print and audio tape copies of items available on request where practicable.
15. Where a requester is not satisfied with a response, they may complain to the Information Officer or the person who responded to the request, who will review, or arrange a review of, the situation and provide a response to the complaint. If after pursuing our complaints procedure, the requester is still unhappy with the outcome, he or she may refer the complaint to the Information Commissioners' Office who, in most circumstances, will expect the our own procedures to have been exhausted before the matter is referred to his office. Contact details of the Information Commissioners' Office are:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Tel: 01625 545745
Fax: 01625 524510
16. We do not usually need to charge for requests. But regulations set under the Freedom of Information Act mean that we do not have to provide information if the estimated cost of collating and preparing it would exceed £450. If this is the case, we will contact you to set out and, if necessary, discuss what can be provided within the cost limit. For information beyond the cost limit, we may charge a fee for providing the information on a discretionary basis. If a fee applies, you will be informed, and the requested information will be supplied when the fee is paid.
The Information Officer
Wales Audit Office
24 Cathedral Road
We welcome telephone calls in Welsh and English. You can also write to us in either Welsh or English and we will respond in the language you have used. Corresponding in Welsh will not lead to a delay.