In another blow to government secrecy, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association has won an important victory in forcing the provincial government to release contracts it makes with the private sector.
In a decision handed down yesterday, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered the government to hand over an unredacted copy of the IBM Workplace Services contract. The government has been fighting against release since FIPA requested a copy of the contract in 2004. (See the order at the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s website).
“The BC government and public bodies across the province have to realize the public has a right to this information,” said FIPA Policy Director Vincent Gogolek. “It has been a very long and frustrating battle, but the result is definitely worth it. The IBM contract alone is worth $300 million and the government’s nine Alternative Service Delivery contracts together are worth $1.8 billion of taxpayers money.”
The BC government argued that releasing the remaining parts of the contract would result in damage to the security of the government’s security systems; that it would damage the economic interests of BC; and that it would harm the interests of a third party (IBM).
At the end of a long and winding road of appeals and litigation, each of these grounds was completely rejected by the Adjudicator or abandoned by the government and IBM.
The IBM decision is the latest in a series of decisions by the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office which require government and other public bodies to release the terms of concluded contracts.
“The government should act immediately to make the terms of all government contracts available on government websites,” said Gogolek. “The public has a right to know, and the government has run out of excuses for not releasing this information.”