Mr X and Public Appointments Service

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date18 May 2020
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator affirmed the PAS?s decision. She found that some of the withheld parts of the records are not within the scope of the applicant?s request. She found the remaining withheld records and parts of records to be exempt under sections 30(1)(a) (examinations carried out by an FOI body) and 37(1) (personal information) of the FOI Act. She found that the public interest in granting access to the details concerned did not outweigh the public interest in withholding them.
Record NumberOIC-62547-V0G1R3
RespondentPublic Appointments Service
Whether the PAS was justified in refusing access to certain records concerning job competitions entered by the applicant

18 May 2020

Background

The applicant took part in a promotion competition in 2019 but failed to qualify in a particular exercise. In a request dated 16 November 2019, he sought access to “all [his] personal records and information” as held by the PAS in any form. In a decision dated 15 January 2020, the PAS part-granted the request, which covered 100 records. It fully and partially released most of the records. It withheld three records in full and eight records in part under section 30(1)(a) (examinations of an FOI body and procedures for examinations) and section 30(1)(b) (functions relating to management) of the FOI Act. It withheld parts of 17 records under section 37 (personal information of third parties). The applicant sought an internal review on 17 January 2020. On 7 February 2020, the PAS affirmed its decision on the request, relying on the exemption provisions set out above as well as sections 36(1)(a) (trade secrets) and 36(1)(b) (commercially sensitive information). On 20 February 2020, the applicant applied to this Office for a review of the PAS’s decision.

I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act and I have decided to conclude it by way of a formal, binding decision. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the above exchanges and correspondence between this Office, the PAS and the applicant. I have also had regard to the contents of the records concerned and to the provisions of the FOI Act.

Scope of the Review

The scope of this review is confined to whether the PAS’s decision on the applicant’s request was justified under the provisions of the FOI Act. Its decisions say that it has fully withheld records 12-14 and withheld parts of records 9, 10, 12-14, 25, 27-34, 44-46, 56, 58, 65, 70, 72, 73, 75, 80, 81, 96 and 97. However, I note from its schedule and the records provided to this Office, that it has also withheld details from record 99 under sections 30(1)(a) and (b) of the FOI Act (and presumably also sections 36(1)(a) and (b)).

This Office has no role in examining how the PAS carries out its functions generally.

Findings

It is useful at this point to outline the Commissioner’s approach to granting partial access to records. Section 18(1) provides, that "if it is practicable to do so", access to an otherwise exempt record shall be granted by preparing a copy, in such form as the head of the public body concerned considers appropriate, of the record with the exempt information removed. Section 18(1) does not apply, however, if the copy provided for thereby would be misleading (section 18(2) refers).

Section 25(3) requires this Office to take all reasonable precautions to prevent the disclosure of exempt material in the performance of its functions.

Records 9, 10, 25, 27, 44-46, 56, 58, 65, 70, 72, 73, 75, 80, 81 and 97 (withheld in part)

The PAS withheld parts of these records on the basis that they comprise personal information of identifiable individuals other than the applicant and are exempt under section 37(1) of the FOI Act.

The applicant says that he has been trying to get details of how he failed to qualify in the promotion exercise and also regarding his performance in comparison to other candidates. He says that, by redacting candidates’ numbers and other identifying details, the PAS should be able to give him details of a group of candidates for comparison purposes.

The PAS’s submission to this Office notes that the applicant’s request was confined to seeking access to all his personal records and information. It says that any details concerning other candidates are outside the scope of his request, even though it would also consider those...

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