As MM regulatory hack Tessa Norman will confirm, when public bodies refuse to co-operate, the sharpest weapon available is the freedom of information request.
The tenacious reporter made it into FCA history books recently as MM was revealed to have filed more FOIs than any other title.
This week a colleague on the MM news desk followed her lead and threatened to deploy the dreaded FOI request in an attempt to jolt a Cabinet Office press officer into action. And it worked!
After more than a month of excuses (“senior staff are on holiday” being the most popular) the Cabinet finally summoned up the wherewithal to provide a brief explanation of what purpose the taxpayer-funded counter fraud checking service is designed to fulfil.
To be fair to the press department, organising communications for Government is probably challenging at the best of times. Trying to spin a positive angle from a mismanaged cross-departmental project is nigh on impossible so it is no surprise they aimed to duck the question.
There is more than a little irony, however, in the delayed response – the Cabinet Office only inherited the project because delivery was badly behind schedule when the National Fraud Office was tasked with delivery.
Handing responsibility to the Cabinet was designed to speed things along – evidence suggests this has not been very effective thus far.