Mr X and Citizens Information Board

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date21 October 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator varied the decision of the CIB. He directed the CIB to undertake a fresh decision making process in respect of any records in the possession of the service provider relating to parts 1 and 2 of the applicant's request. While he affirmed the CIB's decision to refuse access to the names of individuals who work for the service provider under section 37(1), he directed the release of the remainder of the information at issue.
RespondentCitizens Information Board
Record NumberOIC-103051-G2V0V3
Whether the CIB was justified in refusing access to records in the possession of an identified Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), a service provider, on the ground that it does not hold the records sought for the purposes of the FOI Act and in refusing access to certain information contained in records concerning the service provider under sections 35(1)(b), 36(1)(b) and 37(1) of the FOI Act.

OIC-103051-G2V0V3

Background

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) provides free advice for people who are experiencing difficulties with personal debts. It operates from a number of offices nationwide and is currently governed by eight Regional Boards, each of which is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. It is funded and supported by the CIB.

On 1 September 2020, the applicant submitted a three-part request to the CIB for records relating to a specific Regional Board (the Company) under FOI. Specifically, he sought access to:

  1. “All emails or records concerning a press query from [a named newspaper] on [a named county] MABS in September 2021…Several of these emails occur between 9 September and the 13 September. This should include any emails or correspondence within the service provider [the Company].

  1. Any other emails or records concerning [a named radio station programme] on [a named county] MABS funding broadcast in October 2019. Again, this may include emails or records within the service provider [the Company].

  1. The Action Plan 2019 developed by the board of [the Company]. This document dealt with service, governance, change management, and communications.”

He also sought access to a copy of the “Business Case for Restructuring of CIS and MABS” presented to a CIB Board meeting on 9 December 2015 outside of the FOI process.

On 28 September 2020, the CIB decided to part-grant the request. It released one record in full relating to part 1 of the request and six records in part relating to both parts 1 and 2, redacting certain information under section 37(1) on the ground that release of the information would involve the disclosure of personal information relating to third parties. It refused access to the Action Plan 2019 relating to part 3 under sections 35(1)(b) and 36(1)(b). It also outlined its position that the records sought within the Company did not relate to the provision of a service under its agreement with the Company. Separately, it released a copy of the “Business Case for Restructuring of CIS and MABS” outside of the FOI process.

On 26 October 2020, the applicant sought an internal review of the CIB’s decision. He argued that the CIB was not justified in withholding the information, other than information relating to a journalist, redacted from the records relating to parts 1 and 2 of his request under section 37(1) or in withholding the Action Plan 2019 relating to part 3 under sections 35(1)(b) and 36(1)(b). He also contested the CIB’s position that the records sought within the Company did not relate to the provision of a service under its agreement with the Company.

On 13 November 2020, the CIB affirmed its original decision to part-grant the request but varied the basis on which it did so. While it affirmed its decision to withhold the majority of the information redacted from the records at issue under section 37, it decided to withhold a small amount of the information in the records relating to part 1 under sections 35(1)(b) and 36(1)(b) and to grant access to some of the information previously redacted from a record relating to part 2. It affirmed its decision to refuse access to the Action Plan 2019 under sections 35(1)(b) and 36(1)(b). It made no reference to consulting the Company in respect of parts 1 and 2 of the request.

On 2 February 2021, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the CIB’s decision. He argued, in essence, that the CIB was not justified in withholding names, other than the journalist’s name, from the records at issue, under section 37(1). He also argued that the CIB was not justified in withholding any of the information refused under sections 35(1)(b) and 36(1)(b) and again contested the CIB’s position that the records sought within the Company did not relate to the provision of a service under its agreement with the Company.

During the course of the review, this Office notified the Company of the request and invited it to make submissions on the matter. The Company provided submissions to this Office. I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act. In conducting my review, I have had regard to the correspondence between the CIB and the applicant as outlined above and to correspondence between this Office and the CIB, the applicant, and the Company on the matter. I have also had regard to a decision I issued in March 2021 concerning the applicant and the CIB in case OIC-62336 (available on our website www.oic.ie), in which I considered the relationship between the CIB and the Company. Finally, I have also had regard to the contents of the records at issue. In referring to the records at issue, I have adopted the numbering system used by the CIB in the electronic folder of records provided to this Office on 12 April 2021 and have numbered the Action Plan 2019 as record 8.

Scope of the Review

The first redaction at the top of records 1a, 2a, 3a, 6a, and 7a appears to comprise the name of the CIB staff member who collated the records for the purposes of processing the FOI request and, as such, the information post-dates the applicant’s request. Accordingly, I have not considered the redaction of this name in my review. I would, however, note that the name was released to the applicant at internal review (the top of record 4a).

This review is concerned solely with whether the CIB was justified in refusing access to records in the possession of the Company relating to parts 1 and 2 of the applicant’s request on the ground that the records sought are not held by the CIB for the purposes of the FOI Act, in withholding names (other than the journalist’s name) from the records at issue under section 37(1), and in redacting information from record 6a and refusing access to record 8 (the Action Plan 2019) under sections 35(1)(b) and 36(1)(b).

Analysis and Findings
Records held by the Company

Section 11(9) of the Act provides that a record in the possession of a service provider shall, if and in so far as it relates to the service, be deemed for the purposes of the Act to be held by the FOI body, and there shall be deemed to be included in the contract for the service a provision that the service provider shall, if so requested by the FOI body for the purposes of the Act, give the record to the FOI body for retention by it for such period as is reasonable in the particular circumstances.

Therefore, if the Company is providing a service for the CIB, then any records in the possession of the Company relating to that service are deemed to be...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT