Belfast Telegraph

Simon Hamilton's Finance and Personnel department monitored on Freedom of Information delays

By Adrian Rutherford

A Stormont department is under investigation after repeatedly failing to disclose information on time.

The Department of Finance and Personnel is among four UK bodies being monitored by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The move follows concerns over the timeliness of their responses to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

The ICO will review the performance of Finance Minister Simon Hamilton's department, Cumbria County Council, Nottingham City Council and Salford City Council in relation to FoI requests received from February 1 until April 30.

They are being monitored because of delays in at least four cases where the authorities took considerably longer than the statutory time limit of 20 working days to respond.

The ICO's deputy commissioner and director of Freedom of Information, Graham Smith, said: "Public authorities must respect people's rights of access to information. That means responding to FoI requests within the statutory timeline of 20 working days, or with a slight extension if the request is particularly complex."

Mr Hamilton said: "The department acknowledges its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and is working with the Information Commissioner's Office to address the issues he has raised."

Previously Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness's office has been monitored over its poor response to FoIs. OFMDFM became the first Northern Ireland public authority to be included on a list of monitored bodies in December 2012.

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