Question to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform ( Mr. Brendan Howlin, TD)
For WRITTEN response on Wednesday, 18th December, 2013
Section 8 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill 2013 replaces Sections 15 and 16 of the existing 1997 Act and provides instead that each public body will publish a publication scheme instead of the Section 15 and 16 manuals. Given technological and ICT developments in the 15 years since FOI was first introduced, the migration of such information to websites and international best practice, these manuals are not considered an effective way of promoting the proactive publication of information into the public domain.
Guidance on the publication schemes will be provided under the Code of Practice on the implementation of the Act which I intend to bring to Government shortly. It is my intention that the publication schemes will provide for the publication of extensive information on the nature, role, responsibilities and activities of public bodies including the structure, classes of records held, rules relating to any schemes implemented, services provided and so on. This is intended to facilitate much more proactive publication of information by public bodies thus making official information more accessible outside of FOI on a routine basis. Greater publication of official data and information is also consistent with the Government’s commitment to participate in the multilateral Open Government Partnership. In that regard, the Deputy will recall my announcement of a major open data initiative at the Open Government Partnership summit in London last month.
The Deputy’s attention is also drawn to the fact that Section 8 of the new Bill provides that the information contained in the publication scheme will be reviewed at least on an annual basis and that, in the case of a person unable to access a website and who requests details of the nature of records held by a public body, details will be provided in written form.
Following a public consultation process on the draft Code, it is planned that the final Code of Practice, once approved by Government, will be introduced in tandem with the commencement of the reformed Freedom of Information legislation.