A pothole campaigner has won a FOI battle with Fife Council after taking his case to the Information Commissioner.
Scott Dixon submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council relating to roads defects.
But the council told him they did not hold the records he was looking for.
He then took his case to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
The council eventually unearthed the records during the subsequent investigation.
“I should not have had to refer this to the Information Commissioner,” said Mr Dixon.
Commissioner considering if there are ‘systemic issues’
The Commissioner found the council in breach of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
It is now looking into the issue further to find out if there are any “systemic issues” which need to be addressed.
Mr Dixon believes there are “clearly systemic issues in this area”.
He added: “Members of the public and Fife taxpayers rightly expect Fife Council to provide accurate and truthful responses to FOI requests.
“Fife Council blame Covid and bad weather for everything. Whether it’s pothole repairs or not being able to provide transparent responses to FOI requests.
“Yet again, Fife taxpayers are being short-changed by Fife Council who simply have a cavalier attitude to those who simply ask questions which require accurate responses.”
Mr Dixon submitted the FOI to find out when road repairs had been carried out.
He is currently in a legal wrangle with the council over a pothole compensation claim.
And he submitted the FOI as part of his evidence gathering.
In its decision notice, the Commissioner acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic had “placed unprecedented demands and restrictions” on local authorities.
The pandemic had made it difficult for staff to “work normally” said the report.
And they may not have had “access to all of the systems and records ordinarily available to them.”
Covid no excuse says Commissioner
However, the Commissioner said the pandemic “does not relieve any Scottish public authority” from its obligations to make adequate searches for information.
The Commissioner said the council had relied on an exception in the rules.
There is a clause in the regulations stating authorities do not have to disclose information they did not hold when they received the FOI request.
However, the council conceded it did hold the information at the time “albeit misplaced”.
Council lead officer Laura McDonald maintains that the council works hard to make sure FOI responses are accurate and timely.
She added that the council has now supplied the information requested.
The Commissioner said there was no requirement for the council to take further action.