Saturday 24 February 2018

Ombudsman fears cuts are hindering FOI work

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

OUTGOING Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has expressed concern that the Freedom of Information Act is not being implemented properly by State bodies.

Feedback received by her office indicated that the same level of resources was not being put into handling queries.

She told the Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight: "It was a well-functioning scheme at the beginning. I think a lot of the FOI officials in the public bodies were trained to a very high level.

"And then as the disenchantment with FOI set in within the public administration, that sort of fell away. It was no longer seen as an elite function and the supports given to it were no longer there.

"I suppose when times are tough and people are looking for areas to cut back, there is a temptation to cut back in an area which perhaps in certain public bodies has never been accepted as a core and critical function. We would obviously take a different view."

Ms O'Reilly welcomed recent amendments made to the Act by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

However, she warned: "Reform on FOI will be pointless if the resources aren't put into it. Information delayed is information denied."

Irish Independent

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