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Ombudsman guide looks at "publicly available" meaning

05 April 2018

The Chief Ombudsman has a published a new guide on section 18(d) of the Official Information Act 1982, which allows agencies to refuse requests for official information that is publicly available, or will be soon. The equivalent section of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 is section 17(d).

The guide explains what "publicly available" means, and what "soon" is.

The guide says the provisino reflects the fact that people shouldn’t need to resort to the OIA to access information that is already publicly available.

"It also enables agencies to refuse requests where there is a clear plan to publish the information, provided it is published soon. Resort to section 18(d) should not undermine the purposes of the OIA, one of which is to increase the availability of official information.

"The discretion to refuse a request on this basis should be exercised reasonably, and with regard to the particular circumstances of each case."

The guide includes a step-by-step work sheet, template letters, and case studies of actual complaints considered by the Ombudsman.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019