Under the Freedom of Information Act, please provide the following information:
- All other records of advice from statutory officers, as referred to in the decision above, before the purchase was completed
- All records of other due diligence undertaken before the workshop was bought
I can confirm that the OPFCC does hold the information you have requested, however some of this information is being withheld under the following exemption of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): – Section 43 (2) Commercial interests and Section 41(1)(a) and (b) Information provided in confidence
Section 41(1)(a) of the Act provides that information is exempt if it was obtained by the public authority from any other person (or company, local authority or any other legal entity) and disclosure of the information to the public by the public authority holding it, would constitute a breach of confidence.
The OPFCC considers that the conditions above are met. The information was provided to the OPFCC as part of a procurement exercise and contained details that were provided in confidence. Therefore, all those involved in the procurement exercise would have given their details in confidence to the OPFCC and would not expect the information to be disclosed to the general public, which is the case in relation to Freedom of Information requests. Furthermore, if the OPFCC were to disclose the information, individuals involved could issue legal proceedings against the OPFCC.
This is an absolute exemption under Section 41(1)(a) and (b) and is not subject to the public interest test.
Section 43(2) protects information which would or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it). In applying section 43 we have balanced the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosing it.
The use of this exemption was carefully considered. The factors in favour of disclosure of this information, including the general public interest and greater transparency and accountability, were carefully weighed against the need to allow businesses and commercial organisations the space to conduct their lawful business competitively and without fear of disclosure of sensitive commercial information.
We consider that this transparency also poses risks to the protection of commercially confidential information. Failure to protect such commercially sensitive information would limit the sources of procurement available to the OPFCC.
Factors favouring disclosure
Where Public funds are being spent, there is a public interest in accountability and justification. In this case to provide information concerning specific contracts and the details contained within would show we are open and transparent, one of the fundamental principles of the Act. The information would demonstrate specific details concerning procurement processes relating to the provision of vehicle workshops for both Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
Third party interests might be jeopardised by the release of information that relates to sensitive commercial information and consequently could provide a competitive edge to other suppliers.
This exemption relates to third party companies whose process and procedures may be jeopardised by the disclosure of information supplied for the sole purpose of assisting the OPFCC undertake its duties. In this case specifically, the information we have removed relates detailed descriptions of information supplied to us by the suppliers, including specifications, numbers and costings.
Disclosure of such information would provide an unfair commercial advantage to other suppliers, as their costs can be compared to previous quotes which would present an unfair advantage and may result in prejudiced costs being put forward. The OPFCC would not wish to prejudice any relations with third parties in the future and jeopardise our tried and tested procurement processes.
There is a public interest in the transparency of police use of resources and providing assurance that the OPFCC is appropriately and effectively utilising its capabilities. The OPFCC recognises the legitimate public interest in the release of information relating to expenditure and best value for the taxpayer. In balancing the public interest in disclosure, we consider the greater good or benefit to the community as a whole if the information is released or not. The ‘right to know’ must be balanced against the need to enable effective government and to serve the best interests of the public.
In this case, it would not be in the public interest to release information that would affect the free and fair competition of competing private commercial businesses in an open marketplace.
For information, we publish a variety of information such relating to the business of the OPFCC on our website which can found by following this link
For material released under FOI click here