Appendix A: Recommendations

Chapter 9 – Requests and resources

“Due particularity”

R35The requirement for due particularity in section 12(2) of the OIA and section 10(2) of the LGOIMA should be replaced with the following statement: “The requester must provide sufficient detail to enable the agency to identify the information requested.”

R36The OIA and LGOIMA should state that, where a request is insufficiently clear, the agency may not treat the request as invalid unless it has reasonably attempted to fulfil its duty of assistance under section 13 of the OIA and section 11 of the LGOIMA. The Ombudsmen’s Guidelines should give examples, if possible drawn from prior cases, as to what generally constitutes reasonable assistance.

R37Section 28 of the OIA and section 27 of the LGOIMA should provide for the Ombudsmen to hear complaints that an agency has failed to offer reasonable assistance to a requester under section 13 of the OIA and section 11 of the LGOIMA.

R38Section 13 of the OIA and section 11 of the LGOIMA should state that if, despite reasonable attempts by the agency to provide assistance, the requester maintains the request in a form which does not comply with section 12(2) of the OIA or section 10(2) of LGOIMA, the agency may treat the request as invalid.

 

“Substantial collation or research”

R39Section 18(f) of the OIA and section 17(f) of the LGOIMA should be amended to state that an agency may refuse a request where substantial time would be required to:

(a)identify, locate, and collate the information;

(b)read and examine the information;

(c)undertake appropriate consultation; and

(d)edit and copy the information.

“Substantial” should be defined in the OIA and LGOIMA to mean that the work involved would substantially and unreasonably divert resources from the agency’s other operations.

Consulting requesters

R40Section 18B of the OIA and section 17B of the LGOIMA should be amended to state that an agency may not refuse a request under section 18(f) of the OIA or section 17(f) of the LGOIMA unless it has first made a reasonable attempt to consult the requester.

R41Section 28 of the OIA and section 27 of the LGOIMA should provide for the Ombudsmen to hear complaints that an agency has not made a reasonable attempt to consult with the requester before refusing a request under section 18(f) of the OIA or section 17(f) of LGOIMA.

R42The OIA and LGOIMA should provide that, if a request for information is revised after consultation, the revised request is to be treated as a new request for the purpose of the 20-working day time limit in section 15 of the OIA and section 13 of the LGOIMA. An agency should not receive the benefit of this provision unless it has made a demonstrable effort to clarify the request within seven working days of receiving it.

Vexatious requests

R43Section 18(h) of the OIA and section 17(h) of the LGOIMA should be amended to make it clear that, in determining whether a request is frivolous or vexatious, the past conduct of a requester may be taken into account.

R44The OIA and LGOIMA should state that a request may be considered vexatious where it would impose a significant burden on the agency and it:

(a)does not have a serious purpose or value; and/or

(b)is designed to cause disruption or annoyance to the agency; and/or

(c)has the effect of harassing the agency; and/or

(d)would otherwise, in the opinion of a reasonable person, be considered to be manifestly unreasonable or disproportionate.

R45The OIA and LGOIMA should include new provisions stating that:

(a)an agency may decline to provide information if the same, or substantially the same, information has been supplied to the requester before, provided there is no good reason for requesting it again;

(b)an agency may decline to provide information if a request for the same or substantially the same information has been declined previously, provided there is no good reason for requesting it again.

R46The OIA and LGOIMA should not give agencies the power to declare a requester vexatious with a view to declining future requests from that person.

Requester’s purpose

R47The Acts should not require requesters of official information to state their purpose. However, guidance for requesters should make it clear that it can be useful for agencies to know the purpose of a request and that they may be asked for it.

Form of requests

R48A new provision in the OIA and LGOIMA should state that:

(a)requests may be made in any form (in hard copy, electronically, or orally);

(b)requests do not need to make express reference to official information legislation;

(c)where it is reasonably necessary to clarify an oral request, agencies may ask for it to be put in writing;

(d)if the requester declines or is unable to put an oral request in writing, the agency should record its understanding of the request and provide a copy of it to the requester.

 

Guidance for requesters

R49There should be a set of publicly available, readily accessible, user-friendly guidelines for persons wishing to request official information. Consideration should be given to creating a dedicated 0800 number, administered by the oversight office, to provide assistance to requesters.