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Monday, December 20, 2010

The wrong nozzle

I often wonder what thought processes lie behind a Freedom of Information request. I don't mean the reason for lodging one, that at least should be obvious: People need to know; there is a need for effective scrutiny; and this sort of transparency in Government is vital to the democratic process. No, I mean how do people decide what information they want?

A lot of it is fairly obvious. Questions about administrative costs, capital works or perceived job perks are the meat and drink of the FOI industry. Others though, may tell us more about the questioner than the organisation being scrutinised.

What started me reflecting on this was the article in today's Western Mail in which it is revealed that the emergency services, local authorities and the Welsh Government have spent more than £32,000 over the past two years sorting out vehicles that have had the wrong fuel put in them:

Diesel vehicles have been filled with petrol on 199 occasions by public sector staff since April 2008, costing £32,304 to put right, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Where organisations have split the figures between 2008/09 and 2009/10, the totals show that in 2008/09 there were 54 incidents costing £7,724 but in 2009/10, there were 75 incidents costing £13,798.

Apparently, the emergency services were the worst offenders, with all but Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service contributing to the total of 162 incidents costing £27,171. The Welsh Ambulance Service spent the most putting misfuelling problems right at £8,122.

It can happen to anybody. In fact according to the AA it happens 150,000 times a year and they attend 60,000 incidents. It’s more common for them to go to a misfuelling than someone out of fuel – twice as common.

Personally, I have run out of fuel on the motorway (who knew there were no service stations on the M42 at that time?) but so far, fingers crossed, I have not misfuelled. Clearly though somebody did and the idea came to them that they might want to know if it ever happened in the public sector and how much it cost. Or did they just see an ambulance stranded at a petrol station waiting for assistance? I am intrigued.
Problem is, that this doesn't give you much of a picture!

Surely you should be looking at how many trips to re-fuel are made and then the number of fill ups were done with the wrong fuel?

Any figures available for South Wales Police?

Any figures for Bridgend CBC who seem to be rejecting most FoI requests.

Perhaps it's about time I re-submitted for the names of the Magistrates in Bridgend County, they are, after all public appointments?
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