Minister Howlin launches Freedom of Information Model Publication Scheme for public consultation

Issued 1 September 2015

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin, T.D., today (1 September 2015) launched a draft Model Publication Scheme under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2014 for public consultation.

The Minister said: 

“FOI bodies should publish as much information as possible in an open and accessible manner on a routine basis outside of FOI, having regard to the principles of openness, transparency and accountability as set out in the Act”.  

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides for more proactive publication of information by FOI bodies through the preparation and publication of a Publication Scheme in accordance with the Act.  The Act requires that in preparing, reviewing or revising a publication scheme, an FOI body shall have regard to the public interest in:

(a) allowing public access to information held by the FOI body;

(b) the publication of reasons for decisions made by the FOI body; and

(c) publishing information of relevance or interest to the general public in relation to its activities and functions generally. 

When complying with this requirement FOI bodies must do so in conformity with a model publication scheme or guidelines made by the Minister.  

The Minister said

“The purpose is to commit FOI bodies to making much more information available as part of their normal business activities in accordance with the scheme, thus allowing for the giving of records outside of FOI provided that such publication or giving of access is not prohibited by law”.  

The Minister has made this draft model publication scheme which is fully in compliance with Section 8 of the FOI Act and has issued it for consultation to the public.  The scheme will be the minimal requirement and FOI bodies may publish further information.  The Minister acknowledges that there will be circumstances where an FOI body may indicate in its Publication Scheme that a particular item is “not applicable” as not all FOI bodies will hold the same nature of records. 

In this context, the Minister announced the launch of a draft Model Publication scheme for public consultation for 3 weeks and invited all to participate.

Further Information

  • The draft Model Publication Scheme sets out various types of information that FOI bodies are required to publish, provided that the publication is not contrary to law. You can view the draft Scheme, as well as guidance, at the following link - http://www.per.gov.ie/?p=14661
  • Members of the public should send their observations with the subject title Model Publication Scheme to cpu@per.gov.ie before close of business on Monday 21 September 2015.  Consultation with the Office of the Information Commissioner will take place in tandem.

Under this Publication Scheme, each FOI body shall:

  •  Set out information to assist members of the public in their understanding of the body and its functions;
  • Publish the information it holds grouped under specific standard headings to make information easier to locate; and
  • Explain the procedures to get access to information or to establish what information the body holds. 

In some circumstances FOI bodies may state ‘Not applicable’.  These circumstances arise where:

  • the body does not hold the type of records concerned;
  •  the body is only subject to FOI in part and the type of records listed in the scheme are exempt;  or
  • the information is exempt under one of the FOI Act exemptions or is prohibited by some other statute, licence or regulatory decision.
  •  It may be necessary to provide a different scheme for very small FOI bodies.