Commissioner for Environmental Information publishes his annual report for 2018

10 July 2019

Nearly 37,000 FOI requests were made to public bodies last year.  The figure is an 8.5% increase on 2017, and an increase of 32% on 2015, the first full year since fees for making FOI requests were abolished. 

Speaking after the publication of his annual report for 2018, Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall said that the HSE received the highest number of requests with 10,706 made to the health organisation.  

The Information Commissioner also said that there is still an unacceptable number of cases where public bodies failed to make a decision within the required time-frame when an FOI request is received.  Public bodies failed to issue a decision at either the initial decision-making stage or ‘internal review’ stage in 28% of all cases accepted by the Commissioner’s Office.

As a result, the Information Commissioner is currently conducting an investigation of compliance with the relevant deadlines within a select number of public bodies and will publish a report of his findings later in the year. 

543 applications for review of decisions of public bodies were made to the Commissioner’s Office in 2018.  An all-time high of 64% of cases were completed within four months, with the Office completing more cases than were received during the year. 

276 cases were closed by way of a binding decision, including the following:

  • Two cases involved requests for records held in the private e-mail accounts of former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and former Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald.  The respective Departments did not contact either individual when processing the requests as they regarded the e-mail accounts as private.  However, as there was evidence that the private e-mail accounts had been used in connection with the official business of the Departments, the Information Commissioner directed each Department to contact Mr Kenny and Ms Fitzgerald to determine if they held records coming within the scope of the requests.
  • In another case the Commissioner found that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection was not required to provide a redacted copy of CCTV footage in which the applicant was captured as it did not have the necessary facilities to allow it to do so.

The Information Commissioner’s annual report for 2018 is available on the Commissioner’s website at www.oic.ie.

The Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information

Peter Tyndall is also the Commissioner for Environmental Information.  The role of the Commissioner is to decide on appeals by members of the public who are not happy with the outcome of their requests to public authorities for environmental information under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations. 

The Commissioner’s Office reviewed more cases (54) in 2018 than in any other year since it was established in 2007.  In contrast to the performance of public bodies under the FOI Act, the Commissioner welcomed a significant decrease in the number of cases where a public authority failed to make a decision, or issued a late decision, on an environmental request - a decrease of 25% at both first and second stage of the decision-making process.

The Commissioner for Environmental Information’s annual report for 2018 is available on the Commissioner’s website.