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What type of records can be requested under Freedom of Information?
Almost any record held by NUI Galway can be sought under Freedom of Information (FOI). The only necessity (unless you are seeking reasons for a decision) is that it is contained in an existing record. A record is defined as including any memorandum, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work or other documents, any photograph, film or recording, or any form in which data is held.
How do I make an FOI request for Access to Records?
Should you wish to make a request for access to records we would first advise that you view the University Publication Scheme. The majority of information about the University can be gained through this. However should the required information not be set out in the Publication Scheme you may make a request for access to Information as follows:
- Your application should be in writing and must state that your request is made under Section 12 of the FOI Act 2014.
- Alternatively, you may download and complete the University's FOI Application Form. Download the Application Form - Request for Access to Records
- Indicate clearly that the information is sought under the Freedom of Information Act
- Indicate if the information is required in a particular form i.e. email, photocopy, computer disk, etc.
- Include as much detail as possible to enable the staff of the University to identify the record. If you have difficulty in identifying the precise records that you require, the FOI Office will be happy to assist you in preparing your request
- Provide full contact details including a telephone number and e-mail address where available so that you may be contacted if it is necessary to clarify the details of your request.
Send your request to the FOI Office at NUI Galway. You may be required to provide identification especially when requesting personal information. A typical form of identification that you could be asked to produce will be your passport, driving licence, student ID card or birth certificate.
Applications must be in writing and should be sent to the FOI Office at NUI Galway.
What can I do if I want my personal information amended?
If you believe that a record held by NUIG concerning you is incorrect, incomplete or misleading you can apply to have it amended. In this context the following should be noted:
- Your application should be in writing and must state that your request is made under Section 9 of the FOI Act 2014.
- Alternatively, you may download and complete the University's FOI Amended Personal Information Application Form. Download: Application Form - Amended Personal Information
- You must give details of the information, which you believe is incorrect, incomplete or misleading.
- You must specify the amendments that you wish to have made.
- You should also supply appropriate information in support of your application
Can I get help in making an FOI request?
Yes, if you require any help the staff of the NUI Galway FOI Office will be happy to assist you in the formulation of your request. The FOI Office is also available to provide assistance to persons with a disability to exercise their right under the FOI Act 2014 (e.g accepting oral requests from requesters who are unable to read, print and/or write due to their disability, enabling the requester to inspect or have records explained to him or her). For further information, please contact the FOI Office.
How is an FOI request processed by NUI Galway?
Following your request you will receive an acknowledgement of your request no later than two weeks from the date on which the University receives it. The University is normally obliged to issue a response to the request within four weeks. A longer period may be applicable in certain circumstances; for example, where consultation with third parties is required. In all cases, you will be informed by the University of the expected decision date.
Nominated officers of the University, known internally as FOI Decision Makers, make decisions on applications.
Will I get everything I ask for through the FOI process?
Not all records, which may be sought under FOI will be made available to the requester. Some records will be released in edited versions or refused outright. The reason for this is that certain material may be considered sensitive or private as they may relate to a third party.
There are also exemptions under the FOI Act 2014 upon which NUI Galway can refuse an FOI request in whole or in part.
What are exemptions?
There are exemptions under the FOI Act 2014 upon which NUI Galway can refuse an FOI request in whole or in part. Exemptions are conditions under which certain records are protected. This includes records which contain confidential and commercially sensitive information, records containing personal information (other than information relating to the person making the request) and records relating to investigations and legal advices.
Will I be charged a fee?
There is no initial application fee under the FOI Act 2014 and there is no fee charged for a request for personal information. However, the FOI Act 2014 does allow a fee to be charged in situations where the request relates to a significant number of records. This fee will be charged having regard to the circumstances of the request. There are no fees charged in respect of an application for reasons for a decision affecting the requester or an application requesting the amendment of a personal record held by NUI Galway.
In relation to non-personal information, fees are charged in respect of the time spent searching, retrieving and copying records that are released to the requester:
- There is a minimum threshold of €100.00 below which no search, retrieval and copying fees can be charged. Once the charge exceeds €100.00, full fees apply:
- €20.00 per hour - search and retrieval
- €0.04 per sheet for a photocopy
- There is a cap on the amount of search, retrieval and copying fees that can be charged (€500.00).
- There is a further upper limit on estimated search, retrieval and copying fees of €700.00 above which NUI Galway can refuse to process the request, unless the requester is prepared to refine the request to bring the search, retrieval and copying fees below the limit.
- NUI Galway reserves the right to seek a deposit from a requester prior to undertaking any search, retrieval or copying.
Review and appeal fees:
A charge applies to internal reviews and appeals to the Office of the Information Commissioner concerning access to non personal records. There are fee reductions available for medical card holders. A fee of €30.00 (€15.00 for medical card holders) is charged in relation to the internal review of a decision. A fee of €50.00 (€15.00 for medical card holders) is charged in relation to the review of a decision by the Information Commissioner.
What do I do if I am not happy about a decision on my request?
Rights of Review and Appeal
The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may be damaging or inappropriate. Where NUI Galway invokes these provisions to withhold information, the decision may be appealed. Decisions in relation to deferral of access, charges, forms of access, etc. may also be the subject of appeal. Details of the review and appeals mechanisms are provided below.
If you are not happy with a decision made by NUI Galway in response to your FOI request and would like to appeal the decision, you can do so by sending a request in writing asking for an internal review of the decision to the Freedom of Information Officer, Room A131, Quadrangle, NUI Galway, University Road, Galway
You may seek an internal review of the initial decision if:
- You are dissatisfied with the initial response received, i.e. refusal of information, form of access, fees, etc.
- You have not received a reply within four weeks of your initial application. This is deemed to be a refusal of your request and allows you to proceed to internal review.
The appeal process will involve a full reassessment of your original FOI request by a member of the University Management Team (UMT), not involved in the initial decision.. The reviewer can change or agree with the original decision made. You will be informed of the result of this review within three weeks. An internal review fee of €30.00 (€10.00 for medical card holders) is applicable when appealing a decision and this is to be sent with your written appeal submission. There is no fee for internal review applications concerning only personal information relating to oneself or an appeal in relation to a decision by NUI Galway to impose a fee or deposit.
Requests for internal review should be submitted in writing to the FOI Office.
Review by the Information Commissioner
If, after the internal review, you are not satisfied with the decision or you have not received a reply to your application for internal review within three weeks (this is deemed a refusal) and you would like to appeal again, your appeal should be directed to the Office of the Information Commissioner. This right may only be exercised when the decision is first appealed internally to NUI Galway. A fee of €50.00 (€15.00 for medical card holders) is charged on any appeal to the Office of the Information Commissioner. In most cases the decision of the Information Commissioner is final, however there is a right of appeal on a finding of fact to the High Court if it is argued that the release of a record would contravene EU law.
Appeals, in writing, may be made directly to the Information Commissioner at the following address:
Can other people access my personal records?
No, only you can gain access to your personal records, unless you give your authorisation for someone else to access them on your behalf. Such authorisation should be made in writing.
Can anyone ask for reasons for decisions?
Only a person who is materially affected by a decision may request reasons for that decision.
- The person who is materially affected by a decision should submit an application in writing and the application must state that the request is made under Section 10 of the FOI Act 2014.
- Alternatively, the University's FOI Request for Reasons for Decisions application form can be downloaded and completed. Download Application Form - Request for Reasons for Decisions
- An application under Section 10 must be made within 12 months after the date on which the person affected by the Act becomes aware of it.
How does FOI affect Data Protection Act?
Rights under the Data Protection Act 1988 & 2003 continue unchanged by FOI. The fact that records may be also available under the Data Protection Act does not exclude them from access under FOI. When NUI Galway receives an FOI request from a requester seeking personal information, we will consider the request under data protection requirements to enable us to give the requester the maximum amount of their information, taking into account both sets of legislation.