Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2014, subject to provisions contained in the Act, provides every person with the right to:
- Access records held by public bodies;
- Have personal information relating to the person amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
- Be given reasons for decisions taken by the public body that affect the person.
Under the Act persons have a right to seek access to the following records held by Offaly County Council:
- Personal information relating to the person regardless of when it was created;
- All other records created after 21st October 1998. Access may however be provided to earlier records if access is required to understand records created after this date.
How to make an FOI Request?
Requests for access to records are required to be submitted in writing to the Freedom of Information Officer, Offaly County Council, Áras on Chontae, Charleville Road, Tullamore, County Offaly, R35 F893 or electronically to email@example.com. In order to be considered valid a request must:
- State that the request is being made under the Freedom of Information Act 2014;
- Contain sufficient particulars in relation to the information concerned to enable the record to be identified by the taking of reasonable steps.
Persons requiring access to a record in a particular form or manner must specify the form or manner of access required.
Fees for Making an FOI Request
There is no initial fee for making a request for access to records. However Offaly Country Council may charge fees for searching, retrieving and copying records as follows:
- €20.00 per hour for searching for and retrieving records;
- €0.04 per sheet for photocopying records;
- €10.00 for the provision of records on a CD-ROM.
The following provisions apply to search, retrieval and copying fees:
- A threshold (minimum amount) of €101 exists below which no search, retrieval and copying fees may be charged. In other words no fee applies for FOI requests where search, retrieval and copying fees amount to €100 or less.
- Where search, retrieval and copying fees amount to €101 or more, full fees apply;
- A cap (maximum amount) of €500 applies to the amount of search, retrieval and copying fees that may be charged;
- There is a further upper limit (overall ceiling limit) of €700 on search, retrieval and copying fees above which Offaly County Council may refuse to process a request unless the requester is prepared to refine the request to bring search, retrieval and copying fees below this limit.
Timeframe for Dealing with an FOI Request
Under the FOI Act 2014 a request for access to records must be acknowledged within 2 weeks. In general, Offaly County Council is required to decide whether to grant, part-grant or refuse access to records not later than 4 weeks after receiving a request. However the period for a decision on a request may be extended in limited circumstances.
Grounds for Refusing an FOI Request
The FOI Act 2014 contains provisions that exempt a number of categories of records from being released. Records to which access may or shall be refused under these provisions include records relating to the following:
- Meetings of the Government;
- Deliberations of Public Bodies;
- Functions and Negotiations of Public Bodies;
- Parliamentary, Court and Certain Other Matters;
- Law Enforcement and Public Safety;
- Security, Defence and International Relations;
- Information Obtained in Confidence;
- Commercially Sensitive Information;
- Personal Information;
- Research and Natural Resources;
- Financial and Economic Interests of the State.
Offaly County Council may also refuse to grant access to records on administrative grounds. These grounds include instances where:
- The record concerned does not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain its whereabouts have been taken;
- The request fails to contain sufficient particulars in relation to the information concerned to enable the record to be identified by the taking of reasonable steps;
- Publication of the record is required by law and is intended to be effected not later than 12 weeks after the receipt of the request;
- Offaly County Council intends to publish the requested record not later than 6 weeks after the receipt of the request;
- Requests are considered to be frivolous, vexatious or constitute a pattern of manifestly unreasonable requests;
- Fees or deposits payable under the FOI Act 2014 have not been paid;
- A record is available for inspection by members of the public upon payment of a fee or free of charge;
- A record a copy of which is available for purchase or removal free of charge by members of the public.
- The retrieval and examination of records would, due to the number of records involved, cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption to the work of Offaly County Council;
- The information is already in the public domain;
Appealing a Decision on an FOI Request
A person who is dissatisfied with a decision on an FOI request may apply for an internal review of the decision in writing to the Freedom of Information Officer, Offaly County Council, Áras on Chontae, Charleville Road, Tullamore, County Offaly, R35 F893 or electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. An application for an internal review is required to be submitted to the County Council not later than 4 weeks after the notification of the original decision although this period may be extended in appropriate circumstances. A fee of €30 must accompany an application for an internal review. This fee is reduced to €10 for medical card holders and their dependents. No fee applies if the records concerned contain personal information only related to the applicant. An internal review involves a complete reconsideration of the matter by a more senior Offaly County Council staff member unconnected to the original decision who may affirm, vary or annul the original decision. A decision on the internal review is required to be issued not later than 3 weeks from the date of receipt of the application for the review.
A person who is dissatisfied with the outcome of the internal review may appeal to the Information Commissioner for a review of the decision. Appeal applications are required to be submitted in writing to the Information Commissioner, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2 or electronically to email@example.com not later than 6 months after the notification of the internal review decision although this period may be extended in appropriate circumstances. A fee of €50 must accompany an appeal application to the Information Commissioner. This fee is reduced to €15 for medical card holders and their dependents. No fee applies if the records concerned contain personal information only related to the applicant. The Information Commissioner may affirm, vary or annul the internal review decision made by Offaly County Council. A decision shall be made by the Information Commissioner, insofar as is practical, not later than 4 months from the date of receipt of the appeal.
FOI Disclosure Log
Details of decisions made in relation to previous FOI requests for access to non-personal records are available on the Offaly County Council’s FOI Disclosure Log. This log provides information on the date of the request, a description of the request, the category of the request, the decision made and the date of the decision. This information may assist others who are seeking access to the same records.
Offaly County Council has created a Publication Scheme to facilitate access to records outside of FOI. This scheme provides access to a wide range of information on a routine basis, in an open and accessible format, under the following 6 headings:
- Information about Offaly County Council
- Functions and Services Provided
- Decision Making Process for Major Policy Proposals
- Financial Information
- Procurement Information
- FOI Disclosure Log and Routinely Published Information
For further assistance on Freedom of Information contact the Freedom of Information Officer, Mr. Gerard Bruton, at +353 (0)57 93 46 800 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Council will be happy to assist you in making your request.