Freedom of Information Guidance
Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation applies to a wide range of public bodies and information may be requested on records relating to a tendering procedure of a contracting authority covered by the FOI Act. Certain records may be exempt from the provisions of the Act on grounds of confidentiality or commercial sensitivity. Tenderers are normally requested to indicate, with supporting reasons, any information included with their tenders which they wish to be regarded as confidential. A contracting authority’s deciding officer will normally consult with a tenderer before deciding on whether to disclose such information on foot of an FOI request.
However no category of tender related records is subject to either release or exemption as a class. Therefore each record must be examined on its own merits and responsibility for the final disclosure remains with that relevant public body.
The approach set out in this guidance attempts to balance the desire to achieve greater openness and accountability, with the need to ensure that competitiveness in the public marketplace is at least not harmed, and preferably encouraged. It should be noted that “information” includes emails and general correspondence, including within public bodies, between public bodies and with suppliers. There are two key implications from this:
- important emails, etc., should be properly filed so they are readily retrievable
- the language used in communications should reflect the possibility of disclosure
A document setting out what steps a public body should follow in dealing with FOI requests is available at http://foi.gov.ie/FOI-PUBLIC-PROCUREMENT.