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Thursday, 13 October 2011

FoI Act Request - Identity of Atos Independent Tier, with some answers

Thank you for the attached letter.  My apologies, but I do not understand some of the principles within it.

There is an important democratic principle here regarding public scrutiny.  The Local Government website (http://www.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=71629) makes the point succinctly:

“Public scrutiny is an essential part of ensuring that government remains effective and accountable.”

Are you saying that this not true with DWP & Atos – i.e. effectiveness and accountability are not requirements? 

An appeals process that involves an arbitrator that is not equally visible & accessible to both parties simply cannot be described as independent.  Atos knows everything about them and has free access.  By contrast, I know nothing, have no direct access and anything I wish to send them can first be pre-empted or manipulated if not filtered by Atos.  This can hardly be described as a fair and evenly balanced arrangement.  How can I be sure my case would be accurately and fully represented, particularly when Atos itself has such a strong vested interest in the outcome?  If you were in court, would you be happy with having to present everything through your adversary – of course not and the justice system would never allow it.

I cannot imagine what “contractual & commercial implications” there would be for Atos through revealing the identity of the IT, so please elaborate – exactly what implications – I am not asking about the sums of money involved. 

You have denied my request on the basis that it would compromise their independence, so again please explain why.  A direct parallel is the Tribunals Service, where I can deal with them directly.  Are you saying that such a dialogue stops the TS maintaining its independence?

Despite all of the information to the contrary and the precedents already set, if you still feel that your stance is appropriate and you cannot provide the information I have requested, please escalate this to the next level.


I have some other questions that you should be able to answer as they do not involve identity.  Obviously I would want to put my case to the IT as persuasively as possible, so it important I know how they work – Atos of course already knows this so has a head start.

1.       The nature of the IT:
a.       Given there are 2 strands to the investigation (medical & administrative) are there 2 separate ITs, or is it just different people from the same organisation? The latter.
b.      What type of business is it/are they? ( A GB plc, privately owned, based in GB or abroad etc.) Not disclosed
c.       What is its/their core business and particular areas of expertise? Not discxlosed.

2.       The appointment of the IT
a.       Was the job put out to tender by Atos and if so, who approved the Invitation to Tender (ITT) document?  Where can I see a copy of the ITT (without the list of recipients)?  No ITT, selected and appointed by Atos.
b.      How many companies was the ITT sent to and how many responded?
c.       The reduction from respondents to a short list through to final appointment will have been based on a clear set of evaluation criteria to ensure consistency and objectivity.  Where can I find a copy of these criteria?
d.      Who in DWP finally approved the appointment of the current IT?  To be clarified
e.      Is there any form of contract in existence between the IT and Atos?  Info N/A.

3.       Remit of the IT
One of the main points of my complaint with Atos is that the summary conclusions from my WCA (as in the so-called “descriptors”) is not supported by or consistent with the detail contained in the same report or the other information available and they are therefore unsafe.  I do not believe the “Healthcare Professional” (HCP) can simply keep saying “in my opinion” if there is nothing to substantiate it.  Nor is the HCP at liberty to make sweeping assumptions without first confirming their validity.  Is the IT empowered to evaluate and comment on all of these issues?  If not, they actually serve no purpose.  Awaiting clarification.

Again, to ensure objectivity and consistency of approach, the IT will have a documented, approved investigation process including the detailed criteria they will be assessing and assessment guidelines.  Where can I find a copy of these documents (with their name removed if need be)?  There are probably two – medical & administrative.  Awaiting clarification
I am quite happy for Atos to see in advance all of my submissions for the IT.  Would I get to see their full submission in advance too (this is exactly the way the TS handles appeals)?  Apparently yes, but via Atos.

What timescales are laid down for an investigation and how is progress monitored? Who in Atos “owns” the relationship with the IT and has the authority to reprimand it if necessary.  How are its findings circulated and to whom?  How can a claimant be sure that feedback has not been massaged/edited by Atos?  None, but usually 4-6 weeks.  Results via Atos.

4.       Powers of the IT
a.       If in any area the IT finds Atos to be wanting, can it force changes to be made?  If so, who determines deadlines and tracks progress towards them?  Atos expected to implement DWP policing vague.
b.      What consequences are there to Atos if they do not comply?  Awaiting clarification.

5.       Costs
a.       Does the IT charge for its services?  If so, does it bill Atos and in turn Atos bills DWP?  Clearly Atos has to recover the cost one way or another.   Atos pays for IT services. [which means it comes out of Atos profit margins with the obvious risks]


In summary you cannot say that the IT has “no association with any of the interested parties” when Atos has defined their selection criteria and terms of reference, managed the selection process end to end, probably has some form of contractual arrangement with them and pays their bills.

Yours sincerely

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