Department of Finance reprimanded by information watchdog for failing to follow guidelines

The Department of Finance has been reprimanded by the Information Commissioner for failing to follow guidelines after a nine-month wait by a TD for details about the liquidation of IBRC.
Department of Finance reprimanded by information watchdog for failing to follow guidelines

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who has pursued answers about the winding-up of the former Anglo bank, said the commissioner’s decision proved she had been thwarted in trying to get information.

Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall, in reviewing Ms Murphy’s attempts to get answers, concluded that the department had acted “most unsatisfactory” and was “clearly incorrect” in following guidelines for Freedom of Information requests by the Kildare North TD.

An inquiry into sales of State-owned assets by IBRC is currently stalled for legal reasons and a row over the use of evidence. Ms Murphy’s inquiries originally prompted the setting up of the probe.

Ms Murphy says she is trying to ascertain if a strained relationship that existed between IBRC and officials with Finance Minister Michael Noonan led to the latter “prematurely” winding up the bust bank. This would have effectively “bounced” the Government into turning money owed by it — a promissory note — into sovereign debt, a situation that will cost generations to come, she says.

Mr Tyndall has now concluded, after reviewing Freedom of Information requests made by Ms Murphy, that Mr Noonan’s department responded incorrectly but must ensure it never happens again.

In a critical decision letter given to Ms Murphy, the commissioner says: “Regardless of the [department’s] resourcing issue, however, the manner in which this particular department processed this request was most unsatisfactory.” Its actions were “clearly incorrect”, said the commissioner, in how officials responded to further requests by Ms Murphy for an internal review.

At issue is a refusal by the department to release an unredacted letter dated February 14, 2013, from IBRC director Alan Dukes to Mr Noonan about the liquidation of the bank, in which three sentences have been blocked out.

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