Comms Dept rolls out FoI tracking system

18 Jul 2005

It emerged today that the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has joined forces with Capgemini to deploy a tracking technology that will enable its civil servants to have greater tracking of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests from logging to closure.

The department is the central unit responsible for the governance of FoI requests. The solution was developed by Capgemini based on Microsoft products to allow the public sector staff to track all requests from logging to closure. The FoI scheme provides statutory rights for citizens to access official information held by public bodies. The citizen just needs to make a formal request in writing along with a fee of €15.

The solution is based on Microsoft Office System, Windows Sharepoint Services, Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and SQL Reporting Services.

A spokesperson for department explained: “We have been committed to delivering a solution for the tracking of FoI requests as they are of paramount importance.

“Our central unit responsible for governance needs to maintain visibility of the progress of FoI requests within the organisation. We now have a rigorous FoI tracking system that complies with the government legislation and we can trace all requests from logging through all levels of appeal to closure in a more open and transparent way.”

The IT infrastructure enables notifications and alerts to the desktop with Push Technology, that expedites processing and appeal cycles. Citizens can appeal to the public body if unhappy with the outcome. Citizens can further appeal to the information commissioner if they are unhappy with the public bodies appeal outcome. The information commissioner is the governance authority who presides over the scheme.

Nick Forbes, managing director of Capgemini in Ireland, explained the process: “Once the public body accepts the request, the government department has a fixed time to provide a decision and the relevant documents — it’s 20 days for the Republic of Ireland.

“The citizen then receives a record of the documents examined by the public body and copies of any documents that the body is willing to release to them. The new solution also allows for gathering, collating and reporting of the required monitoring statistics to the appropriate government body.”

By John Kennedy