ICO Decision On Government House – Bernews
The Information Commissioner issued Decision 27/2022 in regards to the Office of the Governor.
A spokesperson said, “On 17 November 2022, the Information Commissioner issued Decision 27/2022, Office of the Governor [Government House]. The Applicant had submitted a public access to information [PATI] request to inspect Government House’s records of appointments of certain positions made by instruments under the Public Seal [instruments of appointment], in accordance with several provisions in the Constitution. Instruments of appointment are formal records documenting appointments made by the Governor of individuals to sit in public posts, such as the Premier and other Ministers, the Ombudsman, Chief Justice, Puisine Judges, Court of Appeals Judges, and Public Service Commission.
“In response to this PATI request, Government House disclosed a number of responsive records to the Applicant, although it acknowledged that the disclosures were incomplete because some files were stored in a room that was inaccessible due to ongoing renovations. The Applicant subsequently challenged the completeness of the disclosed records, as well as Government House’s decision to grant access to the records by providing copies rather than providing the Applicant with the opportunity to inspect them.
“During the Information Commissioner’s review, the Applicant expressed that they were now interested in the records relating to the appointments of all judges only, including assistant justices. Government House clarified that not all of the appointments which the Applicant referenced were made by instruments of appointment and, in fact, that some were made based only on request letters marked approved by the Governor. In an effort to provide the Applicant with the complete list of appointments of all judges during the relevant time period, Government House conducted additional searches of its electronic and hard copy files and disclosed newly identified records during the Information Commissioner’s review.
“The Information Commissioner found that Government House’s initial search in response to the PATI request was not reasonable. In light of Government House’s additional searches, however, the Information Commissioner is now satisfied that Government House has met the reasonable search requirements under the PATI Act and Regulations.
“In Decision 27/2022, the Information Commissioner also considered the Applicant’s challenge to Government House’s decision to provide copies of the requested records, instead of allowing for their inspection. Decision 27/2022 is the first decision by the Information Commissioner that considers section 17 and  of the PATI Act, which allows public authorities to grant access to records in a manner different from what was requested by the Applicant.
“The Information Commissioner agreed with Government House that, given the manner in which Government House stored the instruments of appointment and approved request letters, giving the Applicant the opportunity to inspect them would affect the protection of exempt records from disclosure. Specifically, inspection of these records would disclose the other exempt records of personal information contained in the files.
“The Information Commissioner affirms Government House’s internal review decision and does not require Government House to take further action in respect to this Decision.”
The full version of Decision 27/2022 follows below [PDF here]:
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