Sir Philip Green’s IT figures – four months on and still no closer to the truth

Delayed-462x346You may remember back in October, when Sir Philip Green stepped out of the Bhs aisles for long enough to deliver his review of Government spending, that we had grave doubts over the accuracy of his report.

Sir Philip Green’s IT figures –  four months on and still no closer to the truth

We were particularly vexed by his unsubstantiated claims that Government departments were wasting money on IT equipment.  Some departments were blowing £398 on printer ink cartridges, while others were spending a mere £86; others were lavishing £2,000 on a laptop while more thrifty departments shelled out a mere £353.

What Green and the Cabinet Office – which published the report – point blank refused to divulge was the precise models he was comparing. Was he comparing like-for-like or was he comparing, say, a high-yield laser cartridge with an inkjet cartridge, thus entirely undermining his claim to have identified huge Government cost savings?

After the Cabinet Office press team refused our request for the model names, we immediately submitted a Freedom of Information request, which was refused on the grounds that it “would undermine current negotiations with our supplier to standardise all units onto a single specification and price”.

We applied for an internal review of that decision by the Cabinet Office, but that was again refused in late November on the same grounds.

The only path left to us was to submit an appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which we did on 29 November.

We didn’t even receive a reply until 17 January, when we were informed that our “case has been allocated to one of our case resolution teams who will contact you as soon as possible to explain how your complaint will be progressed”.

Exactly one month later, and still no word from the ICO. So I rang yesterday to find out how our case was progressing, only to be told that although it had been assigned to a team, it hadn’t yet been picked up by an individual case officer. In other words, it’s still sitting in someone’s in-tray, almost two months after the complaint was first submitted and four months after our initial request. It will be “weeks” before a decision is arrived at, the receptionist cheerfully informed me. And this, folks, is what they call Freedom of Information.

In the meantime, both the BBC and Sky have shown an interest in our request. The fight continues.

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