Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Staff cuts cause breach of statutory duty

I recently requested the Defence Nuclear and Environmental Safety Board (DNESB) annual reports for 2011 and 2010

MOD Response

“In the case of your request for the DNESB 2011 report (we have interpreted this as a
request for the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator Annual Report 2011), as there is
information contained within the report which may need to be withheld from the document
for its release under FOIA, a public interest test is required.

Unfortunately the Public Interest Test is taking longer to carry out than anticipated at the
time; this is in part due subject matter expert unavailability. I am therefore unable to
provide you with a substantive response to the second part of your request at this time.
I will write to you again by Wednesday 4 July, by which time I expect to be able provide
you with a final response to your request for information. ”

This response provides a damming example of how resource cuts are causing the MOD to breach its statutory duties in relation to the Freedom of Information Act to provide the information requested with 20 working days.

I suspect that the “subject matter expert” referred to in the response are specialist staff who because of their years of experience and qualifications cost more to employ than non-specialist staff. Consequently specialist staff have been offered early retirement, enabling the MOD to meet cost and staff reduction targets.

The loss of such staff reflects a dumbing down of MODs’ technical expertise, the loss of the ability to act as an “intelligent customer” for its contractors services and the ability to be properly accountable to Parliament, the public for complex technical issues such as nuclear safety.

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