Mr L and Meath County Council

JudgeStephen Rafferty Senior Investigator
Judgment Date28 July 2015
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator varied the decision of the Council. He directed the release of the relevant records subject to the redaction of certain personal information under section 28(1) of the FOI Act. He affirmed the Council's decision to refuse access to further records on the ground that no such records exist or can be found
Record Number140345
CourtInformation Commission
RespondentMeath County Council
Whether the Council was justified in refusing to release insurance documentation and health and safety statements submitted by a third party to the Council in relation to a tender process on the ground that they are commercially sensitive
Conducted in accordance with section 34(2) of the FOI Act by Stephen Rafferty, Senior Investigator, who is authorised by the Information Commissioner to conduct this review

On 1 October 2014, the applicant submitted a request to the Council for copies of insurance documents and health and safety statements submitted to the Council by his own company and a named third party company for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. On 10 November 2014, the Council issued a decision part granting his request. It identified four records relating to the applicant's request, of which it released two relating to the applicant's company for 2007/2008. It withheld the remaining two records, which related to the third party company on the ground that they contain commercially sensitive information. The Council indicated that no records could be found for the applicant's company in respect of 2009/2010 or for the third party company for 2010.

The applicant sought an internal review of the Council's decision relating to the records withheld in relation to the third party company. On 4 December 2014, the Council upheld its original decision on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. On 9 December 2014, the applicant applied to the Commissioner for a review of the Council's decision. On 8 January 2015, the Council released a safety statement in respect of the applicant's company for 2008, which it had located since processing his request.

I note that the applicant was invited to make a submission in support of his application, but chose not to do so. I have decided to conclude this review by issuing a formal decision. The third party company was notified of the application for review and was invited to make a submission on the matter. Solicitors for the company informed this Office that it had no submission to make other than that all personal information should be removed from the records.

In conducting this review I have had regard to the correspondence between the applicant and the Council on the matter, to correspondence between this Office and the applicant, the Council and the third party company, and to the contents of the records in question, copies of which were provided to this Office for the purposes of this review.

In the interests of clarity, I should point out that this review was carried out under the provisions of the FOI Acts 1997-2003, notwithstanding the fact that the FOI Act 2014 has now been enacted. The transitional provisions in section 55 of the 2014 Act provide that any action commenced under the 1997 Act but not completed before the commencement of the 2014 Act shall continue to be performed and shall be completed as if the 1997 Act had not been repealed.

Scope of Review

This review is solely concerned with whether the Council was justified in refusing to release further records relating to the applicant's request under sections 10(1)(a) and 27(1)(b) of the FOI Act.

Preliminary Matters

While the applicant, the Council and the third party company all commented upon an ongoing dispute the applicant has with the third party company, section 8(4) of the FOI Act provides that, subject to the provisions of the Act, the reasons that a requester gives for a request shall be disregarded.

Furthermore, while I note the applicant's contentions about the Council's dealings with the third party company, it is important to note that the Commissioner's remit does not extend to examining the actions of a public body in dealing with matters raised in the records in question or in...

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