Written answers

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Freedom of Information

Photo of Darren O'RourkeDarren O'Rourke (Meath East, Sinn Fein)
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49. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he plans to include additional bodies or companies that receive Exchequer funding to be included under freedom of information legislation. [15210/22]

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Freedom of Information Act 2014 greatly expanded the number of bodies that are subject to the legislation. Where previously, bodies had to be explicitly listed in the legislation for FOI to apply to them, in the updated legislation, any entity that meets a broad set of criteria is subject to FOI by default. At present, approximately 600 diverse organisations are subject to FOI, across the civil and public sector. The criteria are generally concerned with governance and control of the entity.

However, it is important to be clear of the full extent of the reach of FOI. Often what is referred to as "state funding" of an organisation in fact comprises of remuneration for services provided to a state body. Where this is the case, the FOI legislation provides for access to records, even where they may be physically held by a private company or body, where they relate to a service to provided to a public sector body that is subject to FOI.

Therefore, the reach of the FOI legislation as it is presently structured is comprehensive in terms of state entities, and the legislation can in appropriate cases go beyond this in order to ensure that functions performed by state entities cannot be "contracted out" so as to avoid FOI. In this context, there are at present no specific plans to expand the already broad scope of the FOI legislation.

However, I have initiated a review of the FOI legislation and related issues which is ongoing in my Department. An initial public consultation took place in late 2021, with almost 1,200 submissions from all sectors. A document setting out the key themes identified by this process will be published in the coming weeks, which will be followed by a further chance for all interested stakeholders to have their say.

The review will provide an opportunity to plot a course for FOI policy as well as in general "doing transparency" more effectively and in a manner that is fit for today's world and workplace. I would like again to take this opportunity to encourage all members of this House, and any other interested parties, to engage with the review process in order to provide the benefit of their experience and insights, and any comments, queries or suggestions they may have.


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