The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2014 was signed into law on Tuesday, 14th of October 2014 and all FOI requests must now be made under this Act. The Freedom of Information Act 1997 and Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 have been repealed.
What is Freedom of Information?
The Initial Freedom of Information Act came into effect on 21 April, 1998 for Government Departments and certain Public bodies and on the 21st of October, 1998 for local Authorities and Health Boards.
What can you ask for?
You can ask for the following records held by Local Authorities, Health Boards, Government Departments and certain public bodies:
- Any records relating to you personally, whenever created
All other records created after 21st of October, 1998 (in the case of Government Department and certain Public Bodies, this date is the 21st of April, 1998)
What is a record?
A “record” can be a paper document, information held on computer, printouts, maps, plans, microfiche, audio-visual etc.
How should you make your request?
You should make your request in writing to the Freedom of Information Officer, Corporate Affairs, Áras an Chontae, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. You should state that you are requesting the information under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 and be sufficiently clear so that the Council fully understands what records are being sought. A valid request must satisfy these requirements. In cases where the Council receives requests for records that do not satisfy the above criteria, it is obliged to consult the requester to amend the request.
Is there a fee?
When the request is for personal information there are no charges unless there is a significant number of records. In the case of requests which relate to non-personal information charges are applied for search and retrieval and copying. The relevant section of the Act here is Section 27(2) and these fees relate to:
(a) Determining whether it holds the information requested;
(b) Locating the information or documents containing the information
(c) Retrieving such information or documents
(d) Extracting the information from the files, documents, electronic or other information sources containing both it and other material not relevant to the request, and
(e) Preparing a schedule specifying the records for consideration for release.
In relation to the search, retrieval and copying charges there is a minimum threshold of €101 below which no search, retrieval and copying charges can be charged. Once the charge reaches the €101 full fees apply. There is a cap on the amount that can be charged and this is set at €500. These is also a further upper ceiling limit on estimated search, retrieval and copying fees set at €700 above which a body can refuse to process a request unless the requester is prepared to refine the request below the limit. Charges which apply in respect of photocopying are: 4 cent per sheet, €10.00 per cd and €6.00 for x-rays
There are also fees which apply for an internal review under Section 22; this is €30 and €10 for medical card holders and their dependants. The fee for appeals to the Office of the Information Commissioner is €50 and €15 for medical card holders and their dependants.
When will the Council make a decision?
The Act requires that Laois County Council must:
- Acknowledge receipt of the request within two weeks
- Make a decision on the request within four weeks*
There are certain circumstances under the FOI Act where the period for a final decision may be longer than the normal four weeks. If this occurs with your request you will be advised in writing.
Can you appeal the decision?
Yes. If you are not satisfied with the decision on an FOI request you may request an “Internal Review” of the decision. A more Senior Officer will review your application and you will be notified of the result of this review within 3 weeks.
If you are not satisfied with the decision on “Internal Review”, you may ask the Information Commissioner to review the matter.
The Information Commissioner may be contacted at the following address:
Office of the Information Commissioner,
18, Lower Leeson Street,
Tel No: 01- 6395689
The Freedom of Information Officer, Irene Delaney, can be contacted on 057 8664095 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the address below for any further information you may require in relation to information under the Act.
Irene Delaney, Freedom of Information Officer, Corporate Affairs, Áras an Chontae, Portlaoise, Co. Laois.
Freedom of Information
The Information Commissioner published the 2015 Annual Report which is available for viewing on the OIC and OCEI websites.