Watchdog attacked in battle over ID cards

Bill Goodwin writes in Computer Weekly:

The government has attacked its own information watchdog for failing to understand the workings of Whitehall, as it gears up to fight an order to publish confidential reports into the ID cards programme.

The Office of Government Commerce, which is part of HM Treasury, claimed in legal papers that, by ordering the publication of Gateway reviews on identity cards, the information commissioner had unreasonably rejected clear evidence that publication of the project reports would cause “substantial harm”.

The case, due to be decided in a four-day hearing at the Information Tribunal in March, could set a legal precedent that would force government departments to routinely publish Gateway reviews of public sector IT projects requested under the Freedom of Information Act, in line with a Computer Weekly campaign.

Apparently the OGC thinks that:

“Misquotation or out-of context quotation of frank and candid observations or comments could damage public confidence.”

The information commissioner’s response:

“No explanation is given as to why this category of report is particularly likely to be misunderstood as compared with other documents generated by public authorities.”