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The student loan repayment scandal, post office closures in the North-East and FOIA news from Ireland to Australia

Thousands of ex-students over-pay loans

The controversial company in charge of collecting student loan repayments for the Government has taken tens of millions of pounds extra from unwitting graduates. Tens of thousands of people have been advised to apply for refunds from the Student Loans Company (SLC) after it emerged that the firm had collected an additional £36.5m from them in 2010-11 alone.

More than 63,000 former students carried on repaying from their salary, often for months, after they had paid off loans taken out to fund university education. The average amount overpaid was £577, although several graduates claim they paid out several thousand pounds more than they owed.

The total “over-repaid” by graduates is the highest amount ever taken by the SLC, despite assurances that it had made strenuous attempts to ensure it didn’t collect more than was due. Graduates overpaid by £22m in 2009-10, compared to £19m in 2008-09 and almost £16m in 2007-08.

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Brian Brady | The Independent | August 5th 2012

Anger at closure of Post Office closures on Teesside

A total of five post offices in our area have been “temporarily closed” – leaving residents without a vital service on their doorstop.

A Freedom of Information request has uncovered a string of branches shut for more than a year where no replacement provided.

The Post Office has blamed a failure to find suitable premises and a shortfall in people offering to man services, but the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said that the Post Office’s business model is at fault.

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Ian McNeal | Evening gazette | August 6th 2012

Philippines: FOI: Out of time, out of excuses

MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS warned that Congress is fast running out of time in passing the Freedom of Information Act, even as legislators are also running out of excuses to sit on the measure.

The House committee on public information led by Rep. Ben Evardone was earlier scheduled to hold another committee hearing on the FOI bill on August 7, Tuesday. However, House leaders over the weekend said they were again deferring the measure indefinitely to allow Congress to deliberate on the Reproductive Health Bill.

Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, lead convenor of the Right to Know Right Now! Coalition, said FOI advocates had been worried that Congress leaders would find another reason to defer a decision on the FOI. This, even as President Benigno S. Aquino III himself had already endorsed the measure as early as January this year.

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The PCIJ Blog | August 5th 2012

Ireland: Martin accuses Fine Gael of HSE budget ‘cover up’

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin has accused the Government of a “cover-up” following a refusal by the Department of Health to release detailed records related to the budget of the HSE.

Yesterday, Mr Martin said: “The Government should stop hiding behind technicalities in the Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation and publish all the relevant documents in the public interest.”

This latest accusation follows a claim last week that the Department of Health failed to act as the financial position of the health service deteriorated over recent months.

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Australia: Private details of four individuals sent in error to a stranger

PRIVATE and explicit medical details of at least four people were sent to a stranger in a mail blunder WorkCover was alerted to but failed to correct.

Details including the age, phone numbers and addresses of WorkCover clients and their doctors and confidential information relating to their injuries, health plans and medications were sent to another client when she requested her own details under Freedom of Information.

After reporting the error to the casework contractors Employers Mutual, the whistleblower, from country South Australia, received more confidential patient information in letters, including the mental health plan and explicit details of a woman’s drug addictions and medications and another person’s return-to-work plan, detailing their illnesses.

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Bryan Littely | Herald Sun | August 5th 2012

Jody Corcoran | Irish Independent “ August 7th 2012

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