Pension board failed to justify exemptions

| 22/01/2013

stuff they don't want.jpgCNS): Although the information commissioner has upheld a decision by the Public Service Pensions Board to withhold some records from an applicant following a freedom of information request the commissioner has once again pointed to procedural failures by a public authority. In this case the board did not give any reasons for its decision to exempt certain documents in contravention of the law. The PSPB also missed deadlines among other issues leading to another long and protracted FOI battle for the applicant. In her 27the decision under the Freedom of Information Law issued on Monday, Jennifer Dilbert confirmed the decision of the board to withhold records from legal professionals to their clients but she ordered the disclosure of others.

The request was originally made one year and two months ago and the commissioner pointed to several factors which contributed to this matter taking an inordinately long time to come to hearing. She said that throughout the investigation stage, more records were fully or partially released to the Applicant which often took longer than promised by the PSPB.

Redactions were also revised to release further information and confusion reigned over what was and wasn’t disclosed a dispute, which had to be resolved by the ICO. In addition, Dilbert pointed to the growing workload of her understaffed office. However, she also stated that it should not be contingent upon the ICO to compel public authorities to meet their obligations under the Law.

One of the concerns raised by the commissioner in this latest decision was that the PSPB failed to provide any reasons for the use of the exemptions at any stage during the request and appeal.

“I can find no reference in any of the material before me, neither in the various responses given to the Applicant on request or at internal review, nor in the submissions prepared by the PSPB in preparation for this Hearing, to reasons for the application of the exemptions claimed,” Dilbert writes in her decision. 

As this is the third hearing in which the PSPB has been involved, Dilbert pointed out that the  public authority should be well aware of the requirements of dealing with an appeal including the hearing stage, and that the burden of proof is on the public authority to demonstrate that they have correctly applied the exemptions.

Dilbert pointed out as a result of that failure she was the one who had to ensure she protected the disclosure of information that is clearly exempt under the FOI Law such as legal professional privilege and personal information of a third party that it would be unreasonable to disclose.

See the full decision 27-00912 c on the ICO website at www.INFOCOMM.ky

 

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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I would love to see written evidence that my pension will actually be there and the funds exist!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Based on the dealings I’ve had with this particular branch of the govt. I’d say its one if the bigger wastes of MY MONEY.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pension Board just does what they please, and never replys in writing to any letters that they receive, only make telephone calls, with bad attitudes, and twisting ex-civil servants around with so many stories that do not make sense.  In my opinion this does not serve the public well, after all a job was done by these persons who have  "Worked their butts off" and never applies the rule of  justice. A good advice to all who have worked with government -keep their documents secured  because you will need every scrap of information when dealing with the Public Service Pension Board, and not even then you get justice.