The Department for Enterprise has said that information relating to how much Covid support the former Chief Minister Howard Quayle received was already public information.
The £34,375 paid to a company owned by Mr Quayle was declared on the record of members’ interest, with a further £22,750 that will be disclosed in this year’s accounts.
The DfE has also said that while it could have handled the FoI into Mr Quayle’s business better, it rejected claims it acted in a blasé manner about the law, it has also apologised to the former chief about how it dealt with the FoI request.
A statement said: ‘The Department firstly wishes to clarify that it treats the subject of Freedom of Information requests extremely seriously and has over the last five years published almost 100 responses without any challenge. In addition, the Department publishes a report each year listing all businesses who have been provided support under its Financial Assistance Support Schemes in the ordinary course of business.
‘Secondly, the Department acknowledges that there have been failings in the way in which it processed and determined this specific request. The policy principle behind the Department’s approach remains that it does not regularly disclose the breakdown of payments provided to any individual business under its Schemes. This is based on a determination that publishing such details may be detrimental to the commercial interests of a business and therefore deter applicants from coming forward for eligible support.
‘Thirdly, the Department would like to make it clear that Mr Quayle was at no time involved in any decision made to withhold the information and indeed was not afforded the opportunity to voluntarily disclose the information during this process for which it would like to apologise to Mr Quayle.’