Guidance for Suppliers and Contractors

Guidance for Suppliers and Contractors

All existing, previous, and potential contractors and suppliers to the University must recognise that the University, as a Scottish Public Authority, is subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

FOISA provides a general right of access by any person to information that is held by the University.
The information may be about the University's activities, decisions, priorities, plans, tenders, contracts, and targets and performance of services, and it may be held in any format, e.g paper documents, IT-based storage systems, or e-mail messages.

Requests for Information

  • The person requesting the information has to supply his/her name, an address (postal or e-mail) to which the University must send the information, and a description of the information that is required.
  • The University has 20 working days to identify, locate, collate, assess, copy, and dispatch the information.
  • Neither the identity of the requester, the reason for the request, nor the use the requester may make of the information, can influence the processing of the request. All requests must be handled as applicant-blind.

Exemption to the Release of Information

  • There are a number of exemptions to this right of access
  • The University may refuse to disclose information, whether partially or in total, by quoting one of the exemptions, however the use of any exemption must be appropriate, valid and  justifiable.
  • The applicant can challenge the use of an exemption by requesting a review and, ultimately, an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
  • The exemptions include:
    • section 27 - Information the University already intends to publish at a future date
    • section 27(2) - Information related to an on-going research programme
    • section 30 - Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs - typically covering professional advice given to and received by the University
    • section 33 - Commercial interests - including information that constitutes a trade secret or information that, if released, would substantially prejudice the economic interests of a third-party or the University 
    • section 36 - Confidentiality - typically covering communications with legal advisers
    • section 38 - Personal information about individuals - as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998
    • section 39 - Health, safety and the environment
  • The exemptions are restrictive and must be considered by the University in the light of (a)  the public interest and substantial prejudice tests as set down in the legislation, and (b) the briefings and decisions of the Scottish Information Commissioner.
  • The University will consult with any third-party (see below), but it is the University's decision as to whether the information is released, as the University has to justify its decisions with the Scottish Information Commissioner.
  • Receipt by the University of any material marked ‘confidential’ or equivalent should not be taken to mean that the University accepts any duty of confidence by virtue of that marking. Any information submitted to the University may need to be disclosed and/or published by the University. Failure to disclose can lead to an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who can then compel the release of the information – there is no further avenue to challenge the decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner other than on a point of law to the Court of Session.

Consultation with Supplier/Contractor

  • Where an FOI request involves information held by the University that has been supplied by or belongs to a third-party (such as a contractor or supplier), or which may be subject to confidentiality provisions, the University will advise that third-party of the request and seek its views.
  • The University will work with the third-party to identify those parts of the information that the third-party considers to be exempt, and will seek to protect this information by identifying whether an exemption is applicable, appropriate, valid, justifiable, and defensible.
  • It is essential that the third-party works constructively and promptly with the University during the consultation process.
  • However the University is not obliged by law to negotiate with the third-party or to agree on the content of the disclosure before disclosure is made.
  • Where the information request requires information to be disclosed which is subject to confidentiality obligations under a contract, the requirement to disclose may lead to the University breaching the contract. It is important that all contracts and tender submissions explicitly refer to the above legislation such that there will be no breach of contract if the party is required by law or by a court of competent authority to disclose.

 

Further Guidance

  • Information on the University of Glasgow's procurement procedures, including tender processes and procedures and contract management, can be obtained via the Procurement Office.
  • The Scottish Procurement Directorate provides comprehensive advice on FOISA as it applies to tenders, especially during the various stages of the evaluation of tenders, and contracts.
  • The Scottish Information Commissioner, as the official regulator of FOISA, provides comprehensive and authoritative information on FOISA, including decisions on Appeals and the scope and use of the exemptions.