Freedom of Information (FOI) - General Information
Your Rights under the FOI Act
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2014, provides that from 21 April 1998, every person has the following legal rights to information held by public bodies covered by the Act:-
- the right of access to official records created after 21 April 1998 which are held by Government Departments or other public bodies subject to the Act
- the right to have personal details on official records corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading and
- the right to be given reasons for decisions taken by public bodies that affect the requester.
Public Bodies subject to the FOI Act
What is a record
A record is defined as including any:
- text or other document
- any photograph, film or recording or
- any form in which data are held (whether manual, mechanical or electronic), and
- anything that is a part, or a copy, or a combination of the foregoing.
A copy in any form of a record is deemed to have been created at the same time as the original.
What records can be sought from bodies within the scope of the Act
The following manual and electronic records may be sought:
- records created from the commencement date of the 1997 Act (21 April 1998)
- all personal records and records relating to personal information of a requester irrespective of when created
- any other records necessary to the understanding of a current record
- personnel records of staff in public bodies created less than 3 years before commencement i.e from 21 April 1995. Earlier records may be accessed if they are liable to be used in a way that might affect adversely the interests of the member of staff involved.
A record will not come within the scope of the FOI Act where it is:
- already publicly available
- available under another enactment (except the Data Protection Act: requests for personal data may be made under either Act).
A decision on whether to grant or refuse to grant the request must issue within 20 working days of the request being received. The head of the public body may extend the time limit for dealing with a request by up to 20 working days, if the request, or related requests, concern such a large number of records that compliance within the initial 20 working day period is not possible.
The Act makes provision for transfer arrangements where an FOI request is made for a record held by another public body. If, upon receipt of a request, the record is not held by the recipient body, but is known to relate to another public body, the public body should consider recommending to the requester that the request be withdrawn and resubmitted to the body that holds the record. Otherwise, a copy of the request must be forwarded to the body that holds the record within 10 working days of receipt.
Where a request is received for records, some of which are held by the body concerned and others are known to be held by one or more other public bodies, the requester should be informed of the names of the other bodies.
Section 27 of the FOI Act 2014 sets out the charging regime for information requested and released under the FOI Act. As has always been the case, search, retrieval and copying fees can only be charged in respect of records actually released. In terms of FOI requests in respect of which an estimate for search, retrieval and copying has issued, the new fees regime should be used when the cost of the request is being finalised.
Payments to the Department by businesses (or the public) can be paid into the Department's account in the Ulster Bank, Ballina. Details of the bank account are as follows:-
Bank: Ulster Bank
Address: Pearse Street, Ballina, Co. Mayo
Account Number: 80877099
Sort Code: 98-52-30
BIC: ULSB IE 2D
IBAN: IE82 ULSB 9852 3080 8770 99