Right to Information Application for Review

Making an application for review of a decision under the Right to Information Act 2009

Review of decisions

The Right to Information Act 2009 gives a person the right to information in the possession of a public authority or Minister, subject to certain limitations.  The right does not extend to information which is exempt under the Act.

Formal application for information under the Act is made by means of an application for assessed disclosure.

Where an application for assessed disclosure is refused, and the applicant wishes to have this decision reviewed, two types of process are possible, depending on the circumstances.  One is internal review.  The other is review by the Ombudsman.

Each type of review is explained below:

 

Internal review

This type of review only applies where the application for assessed disclosure was made to a public authority.  It does not apply where the application was made to a Minister.

It also only applies where the decision to be reviewed was made by a person in the public authority other than the principal officer.  If the decision was made by the principal officer, the only form of review possible is by the Ombudsman. 

There are two types of party who may apply for internal review.  One is the original applicant for the information.  The other is an "external party".  An external party is a person who is objecting to the release of information to the applicant - on grounds that it relates to their personal affairs, or might expose them to competitive disadvantage.

Where internal review is being sought by the applicant for the information, it must be made within 20 working days of receipt of notice of the decision.

Where the review is being sought by an external party, it must be made within 10 working days of receipt of notice of the decision.

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Review by the Ombudsman

In some circumstances, the applicant for review must apply for internal review by the public authority before seeking review by the Ombudsman - see the previous heading.

The applicant for review can come straight to the Ombudsman where - 

  • a decision on their application for assessed disclosure has not been made within the time limits which apply under the Act, or
  • the decision on the application for assessed disclosure was made by the principal officer of the public authority, or by the Minister

The applicant can also apply to the Ombudsman where they have applied for internal review and they have received a decision within 15 working days of the application.  If so, the application for review must be lodged with the Ombudsman within 20 working days of the end of that period.  Normally, it must be lodged within 20 working days of the receipt of the internal review decision, or of receipt of any other decision being reviewed.

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What types of decision can the Ombudsman review?

The Ombudsman can review various types of decision, for instance -

  • whether the applicant has a right to the information being sought
  • whether the information being sought existed at the time of the application for assessed disclosure
  • whether access to the information should be given in a different form
  • whether the public authority or Minister is in possession of the information being sought
  • whether the public authority or Minister has searched sufficiently for the information
  • in the case of a third party, whether their personal information or information that may expose them to competitive disadvantage should be released
  • in the case of a third party, whether they should have been consulted before a decision to release information affecting them was made.

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What can the Ombudsman do?

The Ombudsman looks at the matter afresh, and can make any decision on the application for assessed disclosure that the public authority or Minister could have made.

Where the case involves a public authority, the Ombudsman can direct the authority to implement the Ombudsman's decision.

The Ombudsman has wide powers on a review application, which include attempting to settle the application, by conciliation or otherwise.

The Act requires the Ombudsman to finalise the review as soon as practicable.

The Ombudsman has issued a Guideline which provides further detail on the review process, together with a Manual on the operation of the Act 

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How do I apply for review?

You should apply in writing on the Application for Review form

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