Mr Y and Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date12 Apr 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator affirmed the Department's decision. He found that the Department had already provided the applicant with a statement of reasons and that it was not required to provide a further statement.
Record NumberOIC-102718-R3F9Y2
RespondentDepartment of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Whether the Department has complied with the requirements of section 10 of the Act in response to the application made by the applicant for a statement of reasons as to why he was reverted to his former grade at the end of his probationary period

12 April 2021

Background

The applicant was assigned to the Department in 2018 at a specified grade following promotion through an inter-departmental competition. His appointment was to an established position in the Civil Service on a probationary contract for a period of one year from the date of appointment. At the end of the probationary period, the Department decided that he was unsuitable to be confirmed in the post, the effect of which was that he would revert to his previous grade from a specified date. It notified the applicant of that decision in a letter dated 20 May 2019. It informed him that he could seek a review of its decision and that any such review would examined by the Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeals Board (the Board).

The applicant sought a review of the Department’s decision. Following its review, which included a hearing at which the applicant and the Department both presented their cases, the Board recommended upholding of the Department’s recommendation to revert the applicant to his former grade.

In November 2019, the applicant submitted an application under section 10 of the FOI Act for a statement of reasons concerning the decision to revert him to his former grade. The Department refused the application on the ground that the applicant did not have a material interest in a matter affected by the act identified and on 23 December 2019, it affirmed that decision following internal review. On 12 November 2020, the applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision. That application was refused as it was outside the six-month time limit prescribed in the Act for making such applications.

Subsequently, on 18 November 2020, the applicant submitted a fresh application to the Department for a statement of reasons as to why he was “unlawfully” reverted to his former grade “without [his] consent and where the matter was decided without the Secretary General of the Department”.

The Department refused the application on the basis that he had already been provided with adequate reasons during his probationary period for the decision to revert him to his former grade. The applicant sought an internal review of that decision following which, on 18 January 2021, the Department said that it had decided to affirm its original decision. However, it also indicated that he had not established that he had a material interest in a matter affected by the act or to which it relates. On 25 January 2021, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the Department’s decision.

During the course of the review, the Department confirmed that it wished to rely on the position it adopted in the original decision, namely that the applicant had already been provided with adequate reasons. The Investigator notified the applicant of the Department’s position and of the relevant documentation that the Department considers to fully explain the probation assessment process as operated across the Civil Service and the consequences for an individual where s/he failed to meet the required performance standard by the end of the probation period. She invited the applicant to make a submission on the matter and he did so.

I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the correspondence between the applicant and the Department and the records referenced by the Department, as described above. I have also had regard to the correspondence between this Office and both the applicant and the Department on the matter. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.

Scope of the Review

This review is concerned solely with the question of whether the Department has complied with the provisions of section 10 of the FOI Act in response to the application for a statement of reasons as to why the applicant was reverted to his former grade.

Analysis and Findings

Section 10 of the FOI Act provides that a person...

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