Case number: OIC-142828-R8N6K1

Whether Eirgrid was justified in refusing to provide a statement of reasons regarding its decision to award a particular contract

 

12 February 2024

 

Background

This review concerns part of the applicant’s correspondence to Eirgrid of 23 February 2023, which sought reasons for Eirgrid’s decision to award a particular contract to a named entity. (The correspondence also sought access to various records, and Eirgrid’s decision on this matter will be considered in Case No. OIC-142642-H8L8V1.) Eirgrid’s decision of 9 March 2023 gave the applicant various details relating to its decision to award the contract.

The applicant sought an internal review on 4 April 2023. Eirgrid’s internal review decision of 27 April 2023 explained its revised position that the applicant was not entitled to the statement sought.

On 27 September 2023, the applicant applied to this Office for a review of the matter. I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act and I have decided to conclude it by way of a formal, binding decision. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the above exchanges, correspondence between this Office, Eirgrid and the applicant, and the provisions of the FOI Act.

Scope of Review

This review is concerned solely with whether Eirgrid’s decision regarding the statement of reasons sought by the applicant was justified under the FOI Act.

Analysis and Findings

The applicant did not cite section 10 of the FOI Act in his correspondence of 23 February 2023. However, it is this provision which, generally speaking, gives individuals the right to seek statements of reasons regarding acts of the FOI body that affect the person.

Section 10 of the FOI Act – statements of reasons

Section 10 of the FOI Act provides that a person who is affected by an act of an FOI body, and has a material interest in a matter affected by the act or to which it relates, is entitled to a statement of reasons for the act as well as a statement of any findings on any material issues of fact made for the purposes of that act.

As the applicant is aware, section 10(5) provides that a person has a material interest in a matter affected by an act of an FOI body or to which it relates if the consequence or effect of the act may be to confer on or withhold from the person a benefit without also conferring it on or withholding it from persons in general or a class of persons which is of significant size having regard to all the circumstances and of which the person is a member.

The act for which a statement of reasons is sought must affect a person particularly, albeit not necessarily exclusively. Where the act of an FOI body affects a wide class of people (i.e. a class of significant size having regard to all the circumstances) and applies equally to all members of the class, an applicant who is a member of that class does not have a material interest in a matter affected by the act for the purposes of the FOI Act. Generally speaking, therefore, the provisions of section 10(5) exclude acts which have general applicability.

Eirgrid contends that the applicant does not have a material interest in a matter affected by its decision to award the contract. Its position is that any benefit which was conferred on or withheld from him, because of its decision to award the contract, has also been conferred on or withheld from persons in general.

The applicant contends that the FOI Act gives citizens the right to be supplied with reasons for decisions made or taken by FOI bodies that affect them. However, section 10 requires that a person seeking a statement of reasons must have a material interest in a matter affected by the relevant decision. In informing the applicant of my view that he did not have such a material interest, I also outlined my understanding that neither he, nor any company that he owns, was a party to any application for the award of the relevant contract. I have received no comment from the applicant in response.

In the circumstances, I am satisfied that any benefit that was conferred on or withheld from the applicant as a result of Eirgrid’s decision to award the relevant contract was also conferred on or withheld from persons in general. I find that he does not have a material interest in a matter affected by Eirgrid’s decision and, in turn, that he is not entitled to a statement of reasons under section 10 of the FOI Act.

Decision

Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm Eirgrid’s decision. I find that the applicant is not entitled to the statement of reasons sought.

Right of Appeal

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.

 

Anne Lyons
Investigator