Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

John Gormley

Question:

472 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that all relevant bodies have produced guides to functions, records, rules and practices as required in relation to the extension of the remit, with effect from October 1998, of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28321/98]

The Deputy will be aware that the Freedom of Information Act was extended to health boards and the local authority sector as from 21 October 1998. Section 15 of the FOI Act requires the production by each public body subject to the Act of a reference book setting out the functions records and a general description of rules and practices of that body, generally known as section 15 FOI reference books. In addition section 16 of the Act required such bodies to publish extensive information in their rules, practices and procedures used for decision making etc., generally known as section 16 FOI manuals.

I am advised that all health boards have produced their section 15 reference books. Similarly virtually all local authorities, including corporations and urban district councils have produced, or have had produced on their behalf, section 15 reference books. A sole exception arises in the case of an urban district council which proposes to publish a joint section 15 and 16 text next week.

The Deputy will appreciate that preparation and production of the section 16 manual is a particularly onerous undertaking. The position at this stage is that each health board has published its section 16 manual or a draft thereof. Virtually all local authority bodies have published their section 16 texts or had one produced on their behalf. A few remaining small bodies in the local authority area are finalising their section 16 manuals and expect to publish within the next fortnight or so.
Within the next few weeks therefore, I gather that all local authorities and health boards will have formally published these manuals. In the meantime it is open to members of the public to obtain access to the published, or where these are not finalised, to the draft manuals.
On completion, section 15 publications are being made available at health board and local authority offices, local libraries and citizens advice centres. Because of their substantial volume some section 16 manuals are accessible at health board and local authority locations only.