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FOI 0346 2019/20: Robotic Process Automation

Freedom of Information Request: 0346 2019/20

I am writing to make an information request regarding Robotic Process Automation solutions used at your organisation. Please complete the FOI questions below.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is software which can automate manual, computer-based tasks by using virtual workers which mimic the way humans interact with applications on a computer. As a result, RPA can drive efficiencies in corporate services by increasing productivity, reducing staff workload and generating cost savings.

The Trust does hold the information you have requested however we are withholding some of it for the reasons given below.

Commercial Sensitivity: investments in RPA solutions, and how the RPA provider has charged the organisation

Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) provides,

“(2) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).”

A commercial interest relates to a person’s ability to participate competitively in a commercial activity, with the underlying aim being able to make a profit. The information you have requested is the commercial information of a third party and in order to apply section 43(2), the Trust must satisfy itself that disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to, prejudice or harm the commercial interests of any person (including the Trust).

Disclosure of the information requested would be likely to prejudice the commercial activities of a third party, in this case the provider of our RPA solutions.

The information you have requested is around how much we have invested and how we are charged by our provider and disclosure to the world at large would involve placing elements of the provider’s commercial strategy into the hands of their competitors, which would prejudice their commercial interests. Therefore S43 (2) of the FOIA is engaged as disclosure of the information requested  would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the contractor.

The public interest test

Commercially sensitive information is protected from disclosure by Section 43(2) of the FOIA which is a qualified exemption subject to the public interest test. The Trust considered, in all the circumstance of the case, where the balance of the public interest lies.

Public interest in maintaining the exemption

There is a public interest in protecting the commercial interests of individual companies such as the contractor and ensuring they are able to compete fairly in a commercial environment.

Disclosure of information may cause unwarranted reputational damage to the Trust or the contractor whose information it holds, which may in turn damage its commercial interests through loss of trade.

Revealing information such as how we are charged can be detrimental to the Trust’s negotiations on future tenders with other providers. If a competitor knows how much the Trust paid for a product and how, then it can exploit this for profit or other gain.

Public interest in disclosing the information                    

To promote openness and transparency of public expenditure, which would enable the public to better scrutinise how public money is spent.

The balancing exercise

The Trust decided the public interest in maintaining the exemption substantially outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

RPA Budgets

1a. Does your organisation have a dedicated budget for investing in RPA? Is yes, please provide your organisations RPA budget for 19/20

No dedicated budget

1b. To date, how much has the organisation invested in RPA solutions?

Withheld under Section 43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act – please see above for full details

RPA Supplier

2a. Does your organisation use a third-party to provide an RPA software solution? If yes, please provide the name of the supplier (e.g. Thoughtonomy, Automation Anywhere, Uipath, Blue Prism etc.)

Yes – Blue Prism

2b. Please provide a brief description as to the project the RPA provider is undertaking/has undertaken at the organisation (e.g. reporting, system integration, tax management etc.) including which departments within the organisation this is/has been implemented

The RPA provider provides the software licence; everything is on premise so they are not directly working with the project.

2c. How many employees (headcount) are involved in the operationalisation of the RPA solution at your organisation post-implementation? We do not record information to this detail – Not possible to answer due to the length of time since implementation of our first RPA processes, and the varying number of processes live/retired in that time

2d. Please state the start and end date of the contract with the supplier

Start date: the contract is renewed on an annual basis

End date: March 2020

2e. Did the organisation use a framework to procure these services? If yes, please provide the name of the framework

This was not procured on a framework

2f. Please provide detail on how the RPA provider has charged the organisation? (e.g. costing by development and consultancy day rates, annual/monthly license fees, additional fees for bespoke services)

Withheld under Section 43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act – please see above for full details

2g. What was the annual cost to the organisation for the provision of the RPA solution in 18/19?


2h. Has your organisation seen any quantifiable benefits through the use of your RPA solution provider? Please provide details on the benefits achieved (e.g. reduced time spent on task by X%, saved X amount of hours per task per month, achieved savings of X amount)

Yes, in hours saved and avoidance – we do not hold recorded information on the details on quantifiable benefits



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