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FOI Publication Scheme

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION PUBLICATION SCHEME FOR THE OFFICE OF THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

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Introduction

The following Publication Scheme has been prepared under Section 8 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2014. The Scheme comes into effect on the 14 April 2016. It is designed to facilitate the provision of information to the greatest extent possible, except for information exempted under the FOI Act.

The Scheme is web based and contains links to reference material on our website, which will be updated as provided for under the Act.  A hard copy will be made available for viewing by appointment.

A.    Information about the Office of the Information Commissioner

Who we are and what we do

The primary function of the Office of the Information Commissioner is to review decisions made by public bodies under the Freedom of Information Act, 2014 (the FOI Act).

Establishment

The Office of the Information Commissioner (the Office) was established under the FOI Acts 1997-2003 and the FOI Act 2014 provided for the continuance of the Office, for the purpose of providing an independent review of decisions made by public bodies on requests for access to records and to enable the operation of the FOI Act generally to be kept under review. 

The Office is under the direction of the Information Commissioner (the Commissioner) and is itself a public body for the purposes of the FOI Act.  Accordingly, its records may, subject to certain exceptions, be accessed by an FOI request.

Roles and Responsibilities

The role and responsibilities of the Office are to fulfil the requirements established under the FOI Act.  That Act establishes certain statutory rights for each person:

  • A right to access information held by public bodies;
  • A right to have official information relating to oneself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
  • A right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting oneself. 


The FOI Act enables persons to gain access to official information to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy of individuals.

Functions of the Commissioner

The main functions of the Commissioner are:

  • To review (on application) decisions made by public bodies in relation to FOI requests and to affirm, vary or annul such decisions. If the decision is annulled the Commissioner may make a new decision;
  • To keep the operation of the Act under review with a view to ensuring maximum compliance (this can involve investigation of the operation of the FOI Act, both generally and in relation to particular bodies);
  • To foster an attitude of openness among public bodies by encouraging the voluntary publication by them of information on their activities which goes beyond what they are obliged to publish under the FOI Act;
  • To prepare and publish commentaries on the practical operation of the FOI Act.

 
Records held in the Office

The range of records held in the Office falls within the following broad categories (some overlap may occur)

Internal Administration Records

  • Personnel Records
  • Accounts Records
  • Assets Register
  • Civil/Public Service Guidelines and Circulars
  • Published Media Coverage, including press cuttings
  • Speeches and Presentations by the Commissioner/staff of the Office
  • Contacts with public bodies including the names of liaison officers for each body covered by the FOI Act
  • Notes and minutes of management meetings and associated documentation
  • Records relating to publication of reports e.g. annual reports, including records relating to translation, tendering, designing and printing
  • Management of the website of the Commissioner
  • Management of case reviews
  • Statistics on case reviews
  • FOI requests for access to records held by the Office
  • Applications for review of FOI decisions outside the jurisdiction of the Commissioner
  • Data Protection Act requests for access to records held by the Office
  • General enquiries and correspondence


Policy

  • Contacts with the Department of Finance
  • Contacts with Oireachtas Committees
  • Decisions/Correspondence with equivalent offices in other jurisdictions

 
Legislation and related matter

  • Discussions with the Central Policy Unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the operation of the FOI Act
  • Discussions with public bodies concerning the operation of the FOI Acts

 
Staff Instructions/Guidelines

  • Procedures for handling applications for review and enquiries
  • Liaison arrangements with public bodies

 
Reviews/Investigations by the Commissioner

  • Communications with the applicant, the public body and any relevant third parties
  • Records relating to FOI decisions being reviewed by the Commissioner
  • Submissions from concerned parties in connection with a review/investigation
  • Legal advice provided to the Office
  • Decisions of the Information Commissioner
  • Other records relating to reviews and investigations, including settlement details, case closure details, investigations, analysis, comment by officials of the Office

 
Commissioner’s other functions and duties under the FOI Act

  • Reports on the operation of the FOI Act
  • Annual reports
  • Records relating to Ministerial Certificates
  • Records relating to non-disclosure of records



Governance and Management arrangements

This Office is committed to best practice structures, processes and systems that support the successful operation of duties in an ethical, accountable, transparent and effective manner. Details of the Office's governance arrangements can be found in its Corporate Governance Framework document, which sets out the systems, principles and processes by which the Office is directed and controlled.

Corporate Plans & Strategies

The Office also contributes to, and is guided by, the wider Strategy Statement of the Office of the Ombudsman.  A copy of that Statement may be accessed at this Link.

Annual Report

The Office’s Annual Reports are available on the website at Annual Reports.

Organisational Structure

Structure of the Office     

Commissioner:Peter Tyndall
Director General:Jacqui McCrum
Senior Investigators:Elizabeth Dolan and Stephen Rafferty (Principal Officers)
Investigators: 11 Assistant Principal Officers
Investigating Officers: 5 Administrative Officers
Support Unit:1 Higher Executive Officer, 2 Executive Officers and 3 Clerical Officers

 Pay Grading

The Information Commissioner also serves as Ombudsman, and as Commissioner for Environmental Information. The Ombudsman is also an ex officio member of the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), the Commission for Public Service Appointments, the Referendum Commission and the Constituency Commission.  His salary is equivalent to that of a Secretary General III in the Civil Service.

Similarly, the Director General acts as director general for the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information.  Her salary is that of an Assistant Secretary in the Civil Service.

The salary scales of civil servants may be found in the circulars available at the following links:

Salaries from Secretary General to Assistant Principal

Salaries from AO to CO

Salary of HEO

Location of the Office

The Office is located at 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2. D02 HE97

Opening hours: between 9.15 and 5.00 Monday to Friday.

Directions to the Office can be found here: Contact Us

Contact Details

Post: Office of the Information Commissioner, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2, D02 HE97.

Telephone: +353-1-639 5689

Lo-call: 1890 253 238

Fax: (01) 6395676  

Email: foi@oic.ie

Media Enquiries

Contact David Nutley, Communications, Office of the Ombudsman

Phone: 01 639 5610 or 086 023 1420

Email: david.nutley@ombudsman.ie

Customer Charter

The Office of the Information Commissioner has adopted the Office of the Ombudsman's Client Service Charter.  This is available at Client Service Charter.

Code of Practice

The staff of the Office are civil servants in the Civil Service of the State and are therefore bound by the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour.

B.    Services Provided to the Public

The service we provide

The Commissioner may review the following decisions made under the FOI Act:

  1. A decision to refuse to provide all records requested;
  2. A decision to refuse to provide a complete record;
  3. A decision to refuse to provide the record in the format sought;
  4. A decision to defer granting of access to the record;
  5. A decision to refuse to correct personal information;
  6. A decision under section 10 whereby reasons must be given for actions of public bodies which materially affect a person;
  7. A decision to charge a fee or seek a deposit before information is released;
  8. A decision to release records in the public interest when the records contain information that is personal, was given in confidence to the public body or is commercially sensitive;
  9. A decision to extend the time limit within which a request for access must be decided.

In most cases, the Commissioner cannot accept an application for a review if the requester has not availed of the internal review mechanism operated by the body itself.  However, where the initial decision was taken by the head of the public body, an application for review of that decision should be made directly to the Commissioner without going through the internal review stage.  Similarly, the decisions described at 7, 8 and 9 above and some deferral decisions encompassed at 4 above should be directed to the Commissioner without going through the internal review stage.

The Commissioner may not review decisions on FOI requests made to the Office.  Subject to the provisions of the FOI Act, such decisions may be appealed directly to the High Court.

The Commissioner may not review a decision in a case where a ministerial certificate under section 34 of the FOI Act is in force.  Section 34 contains a provision whereby a Minster of the Government may, by certificate, declare a record to be exempt from the scope of the FOI Act on the grounds that it “is of sufficient sensitivity or seriousness to justify his or her doing so.”

The Commissioner may refuse to grant an application for review where the application is considered to be frivolous or vexatious or where the application relates to a matter which is the subject of another review.

How our service can be accessed

A person seeking a review of a decision must apply to the Commissioner within specified time limits.  Normally, an application for review should be made to the Commissioner within 6 months of the decision having been notified to the person.  The Commissioner has discretion to extend this time limit – for as long as he may determine – where he feels there are reasonable grounds for doing so.

Generally, a two week time limit applies where:

  1. The decision to be reviewed relates to the extension of the time limit applicable to the public body for its own processing of an FOI request;
  2. The decision to be reviewed is one where a body has considered, in the public interest, releasing a record which contains information which is personal information, or which was given in confidence to the public body, or which is commercially sensitive, and it has consulted an interested third party about its proposed decision.

The Commissioner has discretion to extend the two week period in either case where he is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to do so.

Where an application for a review is made, the Commissioner must provide the body in question with a copy of that application.

Where the Commissioner decides to accept an application for review, the applicant, the public body concerned, and any other relevant person will be informed and invited to make submissions on the matter for consideration in the course of the review.

An application for review may be withdrawn at any stage up to the notification of the decision on the review.

Having received an application for review of a decision, the Commissioner may, where he forms the view that the body concerned has not given adequate reasons for its decision, direct that body to give fuller information on the decision to both the requester and to himself.

The FOI Act specifies that, in so far as practicable, the Commissioner should make a decision on a review application within four months of its receipt.  The Commissioner will notify the parties to a review application of the decision and the reasons underpinning the decision.  The Commissioner provides details in the Annual Report of the number of applications for review which have not had decisions issued within the preferred time limit.

The Commissioner may refer any question of law arising in the course of a review to the High Court for determination and may postpone the making of a decision following the review until such time as he considers convenient after the determination of the High Court. 

Subject to the requirements of the FOI Act, the Commissioner decides his own procedures for the conduct of a review.  The FOI Act also authorises the Commissioner to try to effect a settlement between the parties as an alternative to a formal decision.  Where the parties agree to such an approach, the Commissioner may, with the consent of the parties, suspend the review, and, where a settlement is reached, discontinue the review. 

How much it costs to access our service

The fee payable to access our service depends on the type of application for review being submitted.  Below is a list of the fees to be charged.

Type of ReviewFee payable 
Access to a personal record relating to the requester.No Fee
Amendment to records (Section 9 of the FOI Act).No Fee
Statement of reasons (Section 10 of the FOI Act).No Fee
Appeal decision of a public (FOI) body to charge a fee.
Fees may apply in respect of the search and retrieval and/or copying of records which are the subject of an FOI request. 
No Fee
Request to which Section 37(8) of the FOI Act applies.No Fee
Access to a non-personal record.€50
Access to a non-personal record by the holder of an Irish medical card or a dependant of a medical card holder. 
NB: The Office will require a photocopy of the relevant medical card
€15
Third parties appealing a decision of a public body to release their information on public interest grounds (Section 29 of the 1997 Act, or Section 38 of the 2014 Act).€15

Full details of fees payable, as well as the option to pay fees online, can be found at Apply for Review.

Right of appeal relating to the service we provide

The Commissioner’s decision on a review is binding on the parties concerned.  Such a decision may be appealed to the High Court on a point of law only, and, subsequently, to the Supreme Court. 

Research projects undertaken by the Office

The Commissioner has published reports on the operation of the FOI Act.  To date, the following reports have been published:

  • A Study of Section 15 & 16 (FOI Act 1997-2003) Manuals published by public bodies
  • The Freedom of Information Act – Compliance by Public Bodies
  • Commentary of the Information Commissioner on the FOI Act
  • Report on Non-Disclosure Provisions of the FOI Act to the Joint Oireachtas
  • Committee on Finance and the Public Service (section 32)
  • Information leaflet on the FOI Act and the role of the Information Commissioner
  • Guidance notes on various sections of the FOI Act


The above reports can be found on our website at Publications.

C.      Decision Making process for major policy proposals

HOW WE MAKE DECISIONS

The Office is a review body and does not make public policy.  However, the Commissioner occasionally provides comments on relevant policy proposals.

D.      Financial Information

What we spend

The Office is funded under the vote allocated to the Office of the Ombudsman.

For the most recently published Appropriation Account, see here.

E.  Procurement

How we spend it

A copy of our Corporate Procurement Plan 2014 – 2016 is available here.

F.   FOI Disclosure Log and Other Information to be Published Routinely

FOI Disclosure Log

 Date of RequestCategory of RequesterRequest DetailsDecision MadeDate of Decision
FOI/2015/000123/01/2015OthersRecord relating to a court hearingThe request was found to be vexatious and was refused pursuant to section 15(1)(g).4/02/2015
FOI/2015/000303/06/2015OthersRecords on attendance/flex-time recording systems, including details of time carried over by each person at the end of specific time periods.Part-granted (without disclosure of the names of individual members of staff)24/06/2015
FOI/2015/000708/12/2015OthersCorrespondence between OIC and bodies/organisations subject to the FOI Act which refused to grant FOI requests in 2015.Refused under the provisions of Schedule 1, Part 1(q).17/12/2015

FOI Requests to the Office

Under the FOI Act, any person is entitled to apply for access to information which is not otherwise publicly available.  In general, as person has a right of:

  1. Access to records held by the Office.
  2. Correction of personal information, relating to oneself, held by the Office, where such information is inaccurate, incomplete or misleading.
  3. Access to reasons for decisions made by the Office which directly affect oneself.

The FOI Act does not cover all records held by the Office.  The FOI Act does not apply to records related to reviews under section 34 or investigations under section 36 other than records created before the commencement of the review or investigation concerned, or a record relating to the general administration of the Office.  Other records – e.g. those relating to the administration of the Office such as personnel matters or general contacts with public bodies – may be available under the FOI Act (subject to the standard exemptions). 

FOI requests relating to records of the Office should be made to:


Damien Cahill

FOI Liaison Officer
Office of the Information Commissioner
18 Lower Leeson Street
Dublin 2. D02 HE97

Telephone: +353-1-639 5729 Fax: (01) 6395676   Email: foi@oic.ie

Requests should be made in writing and should specify that they are being made under the FOI Act.  The form in which the records are sought – e.g. photocopies/disk – should be stated in the request.  To allow identification of the records sought, requesters should describe the records in as much detail as possible.  If possible, a contact number which can be used during office hours should be provided for the purpose of clarifying the details of an FOI request.  The staff of the Office will assist in the formulation of an FOI request, if necessary. 

The Office will acknowledge a request under the FOI Act within two weeks.  This will include notification that, in the event that the requester is not satisfied with the FOI decision issued, there is a right to request an internal review of the decision.  The decision will issue within four weeks.

Right to Internal Review of a Decision

The FOI Act provides for a right to internal review of decisions of public bodies.  An internal review may be requested where an FOI request has been refused or partially granted or where access has been deferred.  An internal review can also be requested where the form of access or the level of fees charged is disputed.  Refusal of an FOI request is deemed to have occurred where a decision has not issued within four weeks of receipt of the FOI request.

Requests for internal review of decisions of the Office should be made, in writing, to:


Damien Cahill

FOI Liaison Officer
Office of the Information Commissioner
18 Lower Leeson Street
Dublin 2. D02 HE97

Telephone: +353-1-639 5729   Fax: (01) 6395676   Email: foi@oic.ie

who will ensure that the review is carried out by an official at a higher level than the official who made the original FOI decision.  Such a request should be made within four weeks of the original decision.  The decision following internal review must issue within three weeks of its receipt. 

Information published by the Office

The FOI Act is intended to allow access to information held by public bodies which is not routinely available by other means subject to certain exemptions, procedures and time limits.  The following information about the activities and functions of the Office is available without the need to use the FOI Act.

Annual Reports

The Commissioner submits a report to the Oireachtas each year in relation to the Office’s activities during the previous year.  Annual reports are available from:

  • The Office at 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2. D02 HE97
  • On our website at Annual reports.


Procedures Manual: available here.

Guidance Notes: available here.

Other publications

The Commissioner also publishes reports on the operation of the FOI Act.  To date, the following reports have been published:

  • A Study of Section 15 & 16 (FOI Act 1997-2003) Manuals published by public bodies
  • The Freedom of Information Act – Compliance by Public Bodies
  • Commentary of the Information Commissioner on the FOI Act
  • Report on Non-Disclosure Provisions of the FOI Act to the Joint Oireachtas
  • Committee on Finance and the Public Service (section 32)
  • Information leaflet on the FOI Act and the role of the Information Commissioner
  • Guidance notes on various sections of the FOI Act


The above publications are all available free of charge from the Office or on the website here.

Website

Our website (www.oic.ie) contains additional information about the Office.  This includes:

  • Information about the Commissioner and his role.
  • Information on the Office, including its compliance with the Irish Language Scheme, the Disability Act and the reuse of Public Sector Information.
  • Full text of the FOI Acts of 1997, 2003 and 2014 and Regulations made thereunder.
  • Lists of all Public Bodies within the scope of the FOI Act.
  • How to make an FOI request to the Office.
  • How to make an application to the Commissioner for review of an FOI decision of a public body.
  • All significant decisions of the Commissioner.
  • All High Court and Supreme Court Judgements on appeals of decisions of the Commissioner.
  • Speeches and Presentations of the Commissioner and staff of the Office
  • Guide to the FOI Act.
  • Guidance Notes on sections of the FOI Act.