DWP ordered to release details of Government Gateway contract

The Information Tribunal has ordered the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to publish previously withheld details of a contract with Atos Origin for the provision of the Government Gateway service.

The Information Tribunal has ordered the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to publish previously withheld details of a contract with Atos Origin for the provision of the Government Gateway service.

Serial applicant of Freedom of Information requests Peter Collingbourne attempted to obtain the details of the contract in December 2007, and some of the requested details were released. However, other parts were refused when the DWP argued that it did not have to release the details because doing so would damage its and Atos's commercial interests.

The information commissioner backed Collingbourne's request and ordered the DWP to release the contract details, but the DWP appealed to the tribunal.

Atos was the only bidder for the £47m Government Gateway contract after other interested companies pulled out. The contract was for a large IT system to handle information requests and transactions between government departments and the public.

The tribunal ruled that the public interest would be best served in knowing the adequate service levels and performance measures of the project. "Also, because the original contract failed, there is a strong public interest in knowing of any increased costs of the 2006 contract which can be found in the change control notices," it said.

The DWP asked for the location of the datacentre in which the system's information is stored to be kept secret as a security measure. Because it had agreed to identify the country it was in so that the public could be sure that it was protected by adequate data protection laws, the tribunal allowed its exact location to remain a secret.

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