Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Department of An Taoiseach
Freedom of Information
96. To ask the Taoiseach the number of freedom of information requests being processed by his Department; the number that have had the deadline for reply extended; and the number at least one week, two weeks. one month and over one month overdue, respectively. [19358/20]
Covid-19 has presented a unique set of circumstances to the continuity of work carried out by Government Departments, including in relation to the processing of FOI requests, but officials in my Department continue to make every effort to ensure that all FOI requests received are answered in accordance with the statutory timeframes laid down in the FOI Act. Since the arrival of Covid-19 in Ireland this has been very challenging as, for example, there has been limited access to physical records due to the necessity for remote working. However, in processing requests during this time my officials have had particular regard to the guidance provided by the FOI central Policy Unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on general steps to maintain FOI services during the pandemic.
There are currently 38 FOI requests being processed by my Department. Of these, the deadline for reply has been extended in relation to three requests and there are six requests overdue, one of which is almost three weeks overdue while five requests are over a month overdue.
Nearly all of the cases overdue are being dealt with by officials in the Social Policy Division of my Department who are also closely involved in managing the way the pandemic is handled and as such are extremely busy dealing with other important priorities.
In relation to the cases overdue my officials have kept in touch with the requesters concerned to keep them informed about the progress being made with their requests and when they can expect to receive the decisions on their applications.