Case number: 180160
9 August 2018
On 14 February 2018, the applicant submitted a request to the PAS under the FOI Act for the reason for the decision not to select him for interview for a specific position. On 7 March 2018, the PAS provided the applicant with a marking sheet containing comments of the short listing board relating to his application which it considered to outline the board's decision not to invite him for interview. The applicant sought an internal review of that decision, following which the PAS issued an internal review decision wherein it refused the request under section 15(1)(a) on the ground that no further relevant records existed but also provided a statement of the rationale for the decision taken by the board. On 23 April 2018, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the decision of the PAS.
During the course of the review, Ms Hannon of this Office informed the applicant of her view that the statement provided by the PAS in its internal review decision was adequate for the purposes of the FOI Act and she invited him to make a submission on the matter. No further submission was provided by the applicant. I therefore consider it appropriate to conclude this review by means of a formal, binding decision.
In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the correspondence between the PAS and the applicant. I have also had regard to the communications between this Office and both the applicant and the PAS on the matter.
This review is concerned solely with whether the PAS complied with the requirements of section 10 with regard to the statement of reasons it provided to the applicant for the decision not to select him for interview.
Notwithstanding the statement provided in its internal review decision, it appears that the PAS did not treat the applicant's request as a request made under section 10 of the Act for a statement of reasons. Rather, it sought to identify and release relevant records containing the information sought as if the applicant had made a request for records under section 12. Subsection 10 of section 10 provides that an application for a statement of reasons must be expressed to be such an application. However, subsection 11 requires the public body to assist the individual in making a section 10 application where it receives an application which does not purport to be an application under section 10 but access to the information sought can be provided only by way of such an application. In this case, while the applicant did not make reference to section 10 in his application, the wording of the application was such that the PAS ought to have known that he required a statement under section 10.
I note that Ms Hannon of this Office brought this matter to the attention of the PAS during the course of the review and that the PAS accepts that it should have been of more assistance to the applicant. However it added that it considers the internal reviewer also provided an adequate statement of reasons for the decision taken by the short listing board not to invite the applicant for interview. Accordingly, I have considered whether that statement is adequate for the purposes of section 10.
This Office takes the view that a statement of reasons should be intelligible and adequate having regard to the particular circumstances of the case. The statement should be sufficiently clear to enable an applicant to understand without undue difficulty why the public body acted as it did.
The act for which a statement of reasons was sought in this case was the decision of the board not to select the applicant for interview. In its internal review decision, the PAS stated that the essential requirement for the post included "at least five years satisfactory service as a teacher at a second level subsequent to the granting of full registration through the Post-Primary route with the Teaching Council in Ireland (or with an equivalent body in another jurisdiction ), at least two years of which must be in continuous service in a recognised school or centre for education in Ireland or in a second level school in another jurisdiction". It stated that the selection board found no evidence from the information provided by the applicant that he fulfilled this requirement in relation to service as a teacher at second level. It also stated it was not clear from his application that his qualification was at Level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications which was another essential requirement and therefore the selection board queried his eligibility for the recruitment campaign. It said one of the short-listing and eligibility criteria included substantial experience of teaching design and communications graphics, technology and engineering at both junior and senior cycles (or equivalent). It said the selection board was of the view that the applicant did not meet this short-listing criteria to the same extent as the candidates that were short-listed.
In his application for review to this Office the applicant highlighted his dissatisfaction with the selection board's decision concerning his job application. In subsequent correspondence with this Office, the applicant also expressed his views as to the information that should be available had the short listing process followed established guidelines, including his scoring and ranked position. In submissions to this Office, the PAS explained that the short listing process for the specified position did not employ a scoring or ranking system as it was not required. It is important to note that this Office has no role in considering the appropriateness, or otherwise, of the decision taken by the short listing board or of the procedures adopted in the short listing process. It is sufficient, for the purposes of section 10, for the PAS to explain why it acted as it did.
In the circumstances, I consider that the explanation provided by the PAS to the applicant for the reason he was not short listed for interview is clear and meets the requirements of section 10 of the FOI Act. I find, therefore, that the PAS has complied with the requirements of section 10 in this case.
Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm the decision of the PAS that it has provided an adequate statement, for the purposes of section 10, of the reason why he was not selected for interview for a specified position.
Section 24 of the FOI Act sets out detailed provisions for an appeal to the High Court by a party to a review, or any other person affected by the decision. In summary, such an appeal, normally on a point of law, must be initiated not later than four weeks after notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.