Information released to others before requester

Official Information Act 1982
Section 28
Legislation display text:
Official Information Act 1982, s 28(5)
John Belgrave
Case number(s):
Issue date:

Release of information to others before the requester constituted undue delay

An MP requested information from the Minister for Economic Development relating to a conference. She received the information relevant to her request on the same day as a newspaper. Believing this would have required the information to be couriered to the newspaper the day before it was provided to her, she complained to the Ombudsman.

The Chief Ombudsman notified the Minister of the MP’s complaint and asked him to explain what had happened. The Minister explained that the information was released to the newspaper because of considerable public interest in the conference. He confirmed it had been couriered to the newspaper the day before it was hand-delivered to the MP.

The Chief Ombudsman noted that official information must be released without ‘undue delay’. Section 28(5) of the OIA provides that ‘undue delay’ in releasing official information is deemed to be a refusal of the request. The Chief Ombudsman formed the opinion that the delay in this case was ‘undue’. The information was ready and able to be dispatched to a courier the day before it was provided to the MP. It appeared the Minister had delayed releasing the information to the requester so that she would receive it at the same time as the newspaper.

The OIA does not allow agencies to delay the release of official information on these grounds. While a delay of one day might seem trivial, any acceptance that the OIA permitted such delays would inevitably lead to longer delays. The Chief Ombudsman could see no justification for the delay and the MP’s complaint was upheld.

This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.

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