Module 1 - Current position
This module is about how well a public authority is currently performing in their application of section 12. It provides an opportunity to reflect on how often the application of section 12 is upheld internally within a public authority and by the ICO.
When assessing your public authority as good, adequate or unsatisfactory against the criteria, it is important that you take a proportionate approach based on your individual organisation. You should take into account all relevant factors, including the number of requests you receive and your organisational structure. It is up to you to record your rating and provide rationale for this when building an action plan.
Module 2 - Searching
The searches you conduct to establish what information you hold within the scope of a request are crucial for estimating the cost of compliance in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.
The questions within this module include how you define and conduct searches, and how they are supported by internal knowledge and records management.
Module 3 - Handling
This module looks at how public authorities handle requests when considering section 12.
It includes consideration of what you can include when calculating the cost of compliance, the 'neither confirm nor deny' provision, aggregation of requests and handling refined requests.
Even though a public authority may be able to refuse a request under section 12 of FOIA, they still need to consider their obligations under the EIR and the DPA 2018.
Module 4 - Estimates or Refusals
A realistic estimation of the cost of compliance is essential for the valid application of section 12. This module covers how you should make an estimate, communicate it to the requester and record it for future use. It also considers the requirement to provide advice and assistance in accordance with section 16.
Module 5 - Culture, Learning and Assurance
This module considers how public authorities meet the requirements of section 12 in terms of the culture of openness and transparency and advice and assistance, the review of practices, training and lessons learned, and how monitoring helps improve compliance. The appropriate use of section 12 protects your ability to carry out your public functions. When used correctly it provides a balance between transparency and the protection of resources.