Baldwin and Department of Education; Others (Third Parties)

Application number:
1994 S0085
Decision date:
Friday, May 10, 1996

Baldwin and Department of Education
(1994 S0085, 10 May 1996) 

The matter in issue in this case related to the selection process which followed the advertising of a Senior Executive Service position within the Department of Education.  The documents comprised the pro forma application forms and curricula vitae of the shortlisted candidates, as well as other documents relating to the selection process.  The respondent contended that the matter in issue was exempt matter under s.44(1) and s.46(1)(a). 

In considering the application of s.44(1), the Information Commissioner noted that the documents essentially comprised assessments, or self-assessments, of the work performance, capacity and suitability for appointment of the applicants for the position and thus, on their face, would not appear to answer the description of information concerning the personal affairs of the applicants.  However, the Information Commissioner considered that the fact that a person has applied for a position of employment is information which concerns that person's personal affairs.  The Information Commissioner also noted that if an applicant was successful, the person's employment in the new position would become a matter in the public domain, and the fact that the person had applied for the position could no longer be regarded as information about a private aspect of the person's life. 

In considering the public interest balancing test, the Information Commissioner agreed with the submissions of the applicant that there was a public interest in accountability for adherence to the merit principle in the public sector selection process, that such accountability extended to the shortlisting process, and that, for senior executive service positions, the public interest in accountability is high.  Notwithstanding these public interest considerations being of substantial weight, the Information Commissioner was not satisfied that they were sufficiently strong to outweigh the public interest in protecting the identities of unsuccessful applicants for employment.  The Information Commissioner therefore found that the respondent was entitled to delete from the documents in issue, any matter which would enable the identities of the unsuccessful applicants for the position to be ascertained, as the matter was exempt matter under s.44(1).  In view of the decision in this regard, consideration of s.46(1)(a) was unnecessary.