Introduction

Section 8 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2014 requires public bodies to make information available about their structures, functions, powers and the services they provide to the public as well as details of the types of records they hold and the procedures and practices they operate under. This is known as the Publication Scheme. The purpose of the Scheme is to publish information about public bodies outside of the FOI Act to foster greater openness, transparency and accountability.

The Publication Scheme for the Office of the Information Commissioner is set out below.

The information below is kept up-dated and if necessary a hard copy will be made available for viewing by appointment.

 

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 you

The FOI Act allows individuals 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 decisions made by public bodies in relation to FOI requests when asked by an applicant. The Commissioner can 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 public bodies
  • To foster an attitude of openness and transparency 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 Public Expenditure & Reform
  • 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 and the review of the FOI framework currently underway
  • Discussions with public bodies concerning the operation of the FOI Acts

Staff Instructions/Guidelines

  • Procedures for handling applications for review and enquiries
  • ICT procedure manuals
  • Induction materials for new staff

  • 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. The Office is currently developing its Statement of Strategy for the period 2022-2024 and once finalised the new Statement will be made available here.

Annual Report

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

Organisational Structure

Structure of the Office

Commissioner: Ger Deering
Director General: Elaine Cassidy
Senior Investigators: Stephen Rafferty and Deirdre McGoldrick (Principal Officers)
Investigators: 12 Assistant Principal Officers (10.8 WTE)
Investigating Officers: 5 Administrative Officers and 1 Higher Executive Officer
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. The salary is that of an Assistant Secretary in the Civil Service.

The salary scales of civil servants may be found in the circular available at the following link:

Location of the Office

The Office is located at 6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, D02 W773

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, 6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, D02 W773.

Telephone: +353-1-639 5689

Email: info@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 Customer Service Charter sets out our commitments and the service standards you can expect from us. You can find this information here.

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.

 

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 can only accept an application for a review if the requester has availed of the internal review mechanism operated by the body itself. There are two exceptions to this:

- If the initial decision was taken by the head of the public body; or
- Decisions described at 7, 8 and 9 above as well as some deferral decisions described at 4 above

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 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

If you are seeking a review of a decision you must apply to the Commissioner within specific time limits. Normally, an application for review should be made to the Commissioner within 6 months of the decision having been notified to you. 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 relates to the extension of the time limit applying to the public body to process an FOI request;
  2. The decision relates to a situation where a public body has relied on the public interest to release a record which contains personal information, confidential information or commercially sensitive information of a third party whom it has consulted.

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

When an application is made to this Office, the Commissioner will provide the body in question with a copy of that application. When 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.

An application for review may be withdrawn at any stage up until a decision is issued.

If the Commissioner feels that the public body concerned did not give adequate reasons for its decision he can direct that it give fuller information on the decision to both the requester and to himself.

In line with the provisions of the FOI Act, the Commissioner aims to make a decision on a review application within four months. However, more complex applications may take longer. The Commissioner will notify the parties to a review application of his decision and will provide reasons for it. The Commissioner’s Annual Report provides greater detail on the number of applications for review which have not had decisions issued in the four month time limit.

The Commissioner may refer any question of law arising in the course of a review to the High Court for determination. If this happens, he may postpone the making of a decision until 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 allows the Commissioner to try to agree a settlement between the parties instead of issuing a formal decision. If a settlement is reached between the parties the Commissioner may 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 Review Fee 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 of a decision of a public body to charge a fee for the search and retrieval and/or copying of records.
 
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.
Please note: 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 38 of the FOI 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 or Court of Appeal.

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
  • Investigation into the Operation of Section 10(1)(a) of the FOI Acts
  • Review of the Operation of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003
  • 10th Anniversary Publication - "Freedom of Information: The First Decade"
  • 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
  • Investigation under Section 44 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2014


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

 
 

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.

Financial Information

Vote 19 (Office of the Ombudsman) funds the activities of an organisation comprising the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission for Public Service Appointments (Programme A); Standards in Public Office Commission, including the Regulation of Lobbying function (Programme B); and, the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (Programme C).

These offices carry out separate and distinct statutory functions: nonetheless they function as a single amalgamated agency under one Vote and one Accounting Officer and corporate management board which manages the organisation while simultaneously protecting and preserving the statutory independence and functions of each of the constituent parts. Each office has its own complement of staff but the finance, human resources, accommodation and information technology functions are shared between all offices.

 
 
 

C&AG Appropriation Account for Office of the Ombudsman

At the end of each financial year, each department is required to prepare an account known as the Appropriation Account. The Appropriation Account provides details of the outturn for the year against the amount provided by Dail Eireann. The 2020 Appropriation Account can be accessed here.

 
 
 

Revised Estimates

Revised Estimates are a detailed version of Budget Day Estimates and include information on spending within individual programmes along with the overall financial allocation for our Office. Revised Estimates also include key high level output metrics, context and impact indicators. These provide information on our expenditure and the impact the expenditure is having. The Revised Estimates for 2022 for the Office of the Ombudsman can be viewed on pages 80-84 of the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2022 download, available here.

Procurement Information

 

Public procurement refers to the process by which public bodies purchase works, goods or services from suppliers which they have selected for this purpose. It ranges from the purchase of routine goods or services to large scale contracts for infrastructural projects and involves a wide and diverse range of contracting authorities.

The Procurement Policy of the Office can be found here.

The following are links to guidance documents for suppliers:

 

 

Payments over €20,000

There is a commitment in the Public Service Reform Plan that all purchase orders for €20k or over shall be published online. The Office publishes this information on a quarterly basis. View our PO's over €20,000 (Excel file)

 

 

 

FOI Disclosure Log

A list of all non-personal FOI requests received by the Office since 1st January 2015 can be viewed here:

Non-personal-FOI-requests.xlsx

Records released under Request:

Records relating to staff attendance FOI.2015.003.pdf

Records relating to payments made to law firms 2013-2016 FOI.2016.003.pdf

Records relating to FOI requests from Government Departments in 2016 FOI.2018.002.xlsx

Office of the Ombudsman Internal Mobility Policy 2017 FOI.2018.004.pdf

Records relating to the Office’s legal expenditure in 2017-18 FOI.2018.010.pdf

Records relating to staffing of the OIC 2016-18 FOI.2018.011.pdf

Records relating to expenses claimed by the Information Commissioner 2017-18 FOI.2019.003.pdf

Records relating to data breaches in the OIC 2018-21 FOI.2021.009.jpg

OIC Procedures Manual FOI.2021.012.pdf

FOI.2022.001

FOI.2022.002

FOI.2022.003

 

FOI Requests to the Office

Under the FOI Act, any person is entitled to apply to the Office of the Information Commissioner for access to information which is not otherwise publicly available. In general, you have a right of:
  1. Access to records held by the Office.
  2. Correction of personal information, relating to you, 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 you.

Not all records held by the Office can be accessed. The FOI Act does not apply to records relating to reviews carried out by the Office or investigations under section 44. However, records relating to the general administration of the Office; such as human resources, procurement etc, can be accessed, unless another exemption of the FOI Act applies.

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


Anne Greenalgh
FOI Liaison Officer
Office of the Information Commissioner
6 Earlsfort Terrace,
Dublin 2, D02 W773
Telephone: +353-1-639 5773
Email: info@oic.ie

Requests should be made in writing and should state that they are being made under the FOI Act. The request should indicate whether electronic or paper copies are being requested. To help identify records, requesters should describe the records in as much detail as possible. Please provide a contact number to allow the FOI request to be clarified if necessary. If you need help in the wording of your FOI request the staff of the Office will assist you.

The Office will acknowledge a request under the FOI Act within two weeks. The decision will issue within four weeks.

Right to Internal Review of a Decision

If are not satisfied with the FOI decision issued, there is a right to request an internal review of the decision. If the original decision has not issued within four weeks this is considered to be a refusal of your request and you are entitled to request an internal review of this refusal.

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

 

Anne Greenalgh
FOI Liaison Officer
Office of the Information Commissioner
6 Earlsfort Terrace,
Dublin 2, D02 W773
Telephone: +353-1-639 5773
Email: info@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.

A request for internal review 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. The following information about the activities and functions of the Office is available on our website 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 6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, D02 W773
  • On our website at Annual Reports

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
  • Investigation into the Operation of Section 10(1)(a) of the FOI Acts
  • Review of the Operation of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003
  • 10th Anniversary Publication - "Freedom of Information: The First Decade"
  • 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 more 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
  • 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 decisions of the Commissioner
  • All High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal 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
  • Sample Questions to ask Public Bodies when reviewing their decisions

 

S.I. No. 426/2014 - European Union (Energy Efficiency) Regulations 2014

Under the terms of these Regulations the energy consumption and performance of all public sector organisations must be reported annually. The secretariat to the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information and the Commission for Public Service Appointments is provided by the Office of the Ombudsman at its offices in 6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2. This report itemises energy usage across the whole office.

Annual Energy Efficiency Report 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated April 2022