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Information Commissioner reports significant increase in FOI activity during 2015

Office of the Information Commissioner and Commissioner for Environmental Information

Media Release

The Information Commissioner and Commissioner for Environmental Information, Peter Tyndall, launched his Annual Report for 2015 today, Wednesday 18 May 2016. This is the eighteenth report since the Office was founded in 1998 and the Commissioner's third since taking up Office.

The report reflects on a challenging but successful year with notable improvements in case turnaround times and some important decisions.

The Commissioner:

  • Notes a 38% increase in FOI requests made to public bodies and a corresponding 32% increase in applications for review accepted by his Office,
  • Is pleased to be able to report on a 20% increase in the number of reviews completed within the four month time-frame set out in the FOI Act,
  • Expresses concern over the interpretation taken by the Central Bank of Ireland of its inclusion, for the first time, as a partially included agency, and
  • Warns of his intention to pay closer scrutiny to the failure of some public bodies to issue timely decisions under the Act.

 

Key decisions made in 2015 include:

  • While acknowledging that it might be expected that details of expense payments made to the elected members of the Houses of the Oireachtas should be fully transparent and subject to public scrutiny under FOI, the Commissioner found that a new provision in the FOI Act 2014 served to protect such details from release.
  • The Commissioner directed the release of correspondence between the Ceann Comhairle and members of the Oireachtas in connection with the sufficiency of responses given to parliamentary questions.
  • A decision by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to refuse a request for a copy of the licence awarded to Premier Lotteries Ireland Ltd. to run the National Lottery was not upheld.
  • The Commissioner found that the public interest would be better served by withholding details of the employers that had been excluded from the JobBridge internship scheme in circumstances where the Department of Social Protection had essentially acknowledged that its processes did not necessarily comply with the requirements of fair procedure.

 

Commissioner for Environmental Information

Part II of the Annual Report for 2015 relates to the Commissioner's separate role as Commissioner for Environmental Information. It focuses on decisions made by his Office on appeals under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations 2007 to 2014.

The Commissioner:

  • Noted an 80% increase in the number of appeals made to his Office,
  • Welcomed the reduction in the fee for making an appeal from €150 to €50, and
  • Is pleased to be able to report on the appointment by his Office of two Investigators expressly for the purpose of conducting AIE appeals.

 

Outcome of appeals in 2015 include:

  • A decision by Dublin City Council to refuse access to information on the identity of persons making planning complaints where disclosure of such information would adversely affect the interests of the complainant was upheld.
  • The Commissioner found that An Garda Síochána was justified in refusing access to information on the usage of Garda aircraft, information on a contract for the provision on fuel, and information on an electricity bill for a particular Garda station, on the ground that the requested information was not environmental information within the meaning of the Regulations.

 

END

Further information contact:

Stephen Rafferty, Senior Investigator - 01 639 5680 / 087 4110557
Email: stephen.rafferty@oic.ie

Media enquiries contact:


David Nutley, Communications Unit - 01 639 5610 / 086 0231420
Email: david.nutley@ombudsman.ie

The 2015 Annual Report is available on the Commissioner's website at www.oic.ie.