Freedom of Information Complaints
The Commissioner acts as an arbitrator and will work in an impartial, independent and objective manner with both parties.
The main stages that an application for review (complaint) goes through are:
Application and eligibility assessment
The Commissioner will check that the complaint relates to eligible matters that are covered by FOI, confirms that the applicant has exhausted the PA’s complaints procedure, checks that the complaint form is complete and that all the documentation has been provided.
Not all applications will be progressed: in certain circumstances there may be no requirement for the Commissioner to make a decision, or may be prohibited from making a decision.
Where appropriate, and at any point during the investigation, an alternative resolution can be suggested by any party. However, it is only the applicant that can agree to the resolution proposed.
Investigating eligible applications
The public authority will be contacted and requested to provide a full response to a questionnaire. If no response is received, or the response is unsatisfactory, the Commissioner may issue an Information Notice.
The decision of the Commissioner will be founded on the information provided by both parties. That decision may be to uphold the complaint, in part or in full, or to not uphold the complaint.
It is important, therefore, that both the applicant and the public authority provide as much information as possible to the Commissioner to enable a decision to be made.
Unless the Commissioner is under no obligation (including where an applicant has accepted alternative resolution or withdrawn their application), or is precluded from doing so, the Commissioner must make a decision in respect of the complaint as soon as possible and issue a decision notice to the applicant and PA.
There is no appeal against the decision notice to the Commissioner but it may be appealed by either party to the High Court on a point of law under the Rules of Court.
Consideration of any other action
In some circumstances the Commissioner may consider that it is necessary to provide further good practice advice or issue an Enforcement Notice to the public authority. An Enforcement Notice can be appealed by the public authority to the High Court on a point of law.