Information to be provided
When filling in the application form applicants will be required, apart from providing contact details, to give an indication of the document/information that they wish to obtain. They will also need to indicate the format in which they wish to receive such document/information, namely as a hard copy/print-out, as an electronic copy, in the form of a summary/excerpt of contents or by on-site inspection of the document / information in question. A copy of the identity card or residence permit will need to be submitted together with the application form, however this does not apply in the case of applications submitted through the FOI portal.
Types of requests
In essence, one may ask for any article that is held by a public authority and on which information has been recorded in whatever form, including electronic data, images, scale models and other visual representations, and audio or video recordings, regardless of whether the information can be read, seen, heard or retrieved with or without the aid of any other article or device. One may also ask for documentation which contains policies, principles, rules or guidelines in accordance with which decisions or recommendations are made in respect of members of the public (including bodies corporate and employees of the public authority in their personal capacity). Furthermore eligible persons have the right to request information (in the form of a written statement) on a decision or recommendation made in their respect or in respect of a body corporate which they represent.
FOI requests will be duly acknowledged by the Public Authorities. The acknowledgement forms will include a unique reference number and an indication of the date by when the response will be given. The forms shall also include specific information related to the Public Authority, such as its address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, opening hours and also details of its internal complaints procedure.
Checks to be carried out by the Public Authority
On receipt of the application form, the Public Authority will verify whether the request qualifies as an FOI request and will inform the applicant accordingly if this is not the case. If it transpires that additional information/documentation is required, applicants will be contacted by the Public Authority to whom the request has been submitted and they will be provided with all possible assistance in order to ensure that such request complies with the provisions of the Act. This notwithstanding, when submitting an FOI request, applicants are not required to provide any justifications for requesting any particular documentation / information.
The Public Authority will also verify whether the requested document / information is held at its end. If this is not the case such Public Authority will seek to identify the proper entity to whom the request should be submitted and will transfer such application accordingly (informing the applicant in the process). If no alternative entity is identified (meaning that the document/information cannot be traced at any Public Authority) the applicant will be informed accordingly.
Processing of request
Once it establishes that a request is an FOI request and can be addressed from its end, the Public Authority will determine whether it can provide the applicant with the document / information requested (in full or in part) or whether it will refuse the request. Prior to taking a decision in this regard, the Public Authority shall consider whether any of the exemptions listed in the FOI Act apply. The Public Authority will submit notification of whether the request will be accepted or not within 20 working days from its receipt however it can apply an extension of up to an additional 40 workings days.
Payment of Fee
When submitting a response to the Applicant, the Public Authority shall indicate whether any fees apply. If applicable, such fees shall cover only the costs related to making a document available to the applicant, namely man-hours of processing, costs of photocopies/faxes and digital media and costs related to inspections. Notwithstanding the above, the total applicable fee shall not exceed €40. No additional fees can be incurred for submitting applications or complaints.
The application of fees is regulated by L.N. 158 of 2010.
If the applicant is not satisfied with the response provided by the Public Authority vis-à-vis its request, the applicant is entitled to submit a complaint to the same Public Authority. If, subsequently, the applicant remains unsatisfied with the response received, he/she may lodge an appeal with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner. If the applicant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal he/she may appeal to the Information and Data Protection Tribunal and, subsequently, to the Court of Appeal. Complaints may be submitted for the following reasons: