The Freedom of Information Act
Eligible persons may submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all Public Authorities, including those listed under the Ministry for Social Policy and Children’s Rights. The requests have to be in written format on the prescribed forms and have to be delivered to an office of the Public Authority, either electronically – by e-mail or through the website www.foi.gov.mt, or manually or by post.
SUBMITTING A REQUEST/COMPLAINT
In order to be eligible to submit FOI requests, a person has to be a resident in Malta and to have been so for a period of at least five years. Such person has to be also either a citizen of Malta or a citizen of any other Member State of the European Union or a citizen of any other state the citizens of which have a right, in virtue of any treaty between such state and the European Union, to be treated in Malta in the same manner as citizens of Member States of the European Union.
Obtaining Request for Document/Information Forms
Request for Document/Information Forms are available for download from this website or from the Freedom of Information website at www.foi.gov.mt. They can also be obtained from the various Public Authorities (either by calling on site or through their respective websites). Applicants can submit a request directly through the above-indicated portal either through e-ID or by filling the online form.
Information to be provided
When filling in the Request Form, the applicant will be required to provide his contact details, such as the number of the Identity Card or residence permit, the telephone number as well as his electronic address. These details are required, amongst other things, in order to facilitate contact with the Public Authority. The applicant will need to give an indication of the documentation/information he wishes to obtain. The applicant will also need to indicate the format in which he wishes to receive such document and information.
Types of requests
One may ask for any document held by a public authority without giving reason or justify his request. In the case of documents that are a recording of sounds and visual images, the Public Authority may make arrangements for the applicant to hear or view those sounds or visual images. As long as it is possible, access to a document has to be provided in accordance with the applicant’s preference.
Applicants may seek information in relation to a decision or recommendation made by the Public Authority in respect of them. In such cases, the request must be made within 6 months from the relevant decision or recommendation. If there is a lapse of time from the date when the relevant decision/recommendation is taken and the date when the person learns about the decision/recommendation, the six months will apply as from the date when the person learns about the decision/recommendation.
FOI requests will be duly acknowledged by the Public Authorities. The Public Authority undertakes to submit notification indicating whether a request would be met or not in terms of the Freedom of Information Act (CAP.496.) as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case within twenty (20) working days. Such timeframe may be extended by up to forty (40) working days in line with Article 11 of the Freedom of Information Act (CAP.496.), in which case the applicant will be given notice of the extension and the reasons therefore.
Processing of request
Once it establishes that a request is an FOI request and can be addressed from its end, the Public Authority will determine whether it can provide the applicant with the document/information requested (in full or in part) or whether it will refuse the request. Prior to taking a decision in this regard, the Public Authority shall consider whether any of the exemptions listed in the FOI Act apply. The Public Authority will submit notification of whether the request will be accepted or not within 20 working days from its receipt however it can apply an extension of up to an additional of 40 working days.
The Public Authority will also verify whether the requested document/information is held at its end. If this is not the case, such Public Authority will seek to identify the proper entity to whom the request should be submitted and will transfer such application accordingly (informing the applicant in the process). If no alternative entity is identified (meaning that the document/information cannot be traced at any Public Authority) the applicant will be informed accordingly.
Payment of Fee
The Public Authority may charge fees in order to cover costs. These fees shall be levied in accordance with the Fees charges by Public Authorities for Access to Documents Regulations, 2010 (LN 158/2010) and the total applicable fee shall not exceed EUR 40.
No additional fees can be levied for submitting applications or complaints.
The applicant is entitled to submit a complaint to the same Public Authority within a maximum of 30 working days from the date of the last relevant communication by the Public Authority. Subsequent and different complaints on the same request can only be submitted to the Public Authority after the said Public Authority answers to the original complaint or following the lapse of 10 working days from the date of submission of the complaint.
Complaints may be submitted for the following reasons:
- The Request has not been deemed to be an FOI request,
- The Public Authority has applied an extension to the 20-working day deadline to notify the applicant whether access would be given to the document/information requested,
- The Public Authority has imposed a fee which is deemed to be excessive,
- The document is not provided in the requested format, or
- The request is being refused.
If, subsequently, the applicant remains unsatisfied with the response received, he/she may lodge an appeal with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC) within 60 working days from the date of the notification by the Public Authority. Should the applicant remain dissatisfied with the outcome of this procedure, he or she may appeal the decision through the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal within 20 working days from the last relevant communication by the IDPC. An appeal from this decision may be registered at the Courts of Appeal within 30 working days from the last relevant communication of the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal.
Internal complaints procedure
A complaint may be lodged by filling the Internal Complaints Procedure Form and forward it to the pertinent FOI officer. The FOI officer will eventually inform the complainant about the outcome of his/her complaint, informing about the possibility to lodge an appeal with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC) in accordance with Articles 9 (Fees) and 23 of the Freedom of Information Act, CAP.496.
You can access the documents listed below from this link:
- Freedom of Information Act
- Request for Document Form
- Complaint to Public Authority Form
- Complaint to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner Form
Public Authorities under the Ministry for Social Policy and Children’s Rights
- Office of the Permanent Secretary
- Department of Social Security
- Income Support and Compliance Division
Information provided in accordance with Article 17 of the Freedom of Information Act (CAP.496.) may be viewed by accessing the above links or by contacting:
The Principal Freedom of Information Officer
Ministry for Social Policy and Children’s Rights
310, Republic Street
Valletta VLT 1110