Request for employee’s recollection of events

Information not held
Official Information Act 1982
Section 18
Legislation display text:
Official Information Act 1982, ss 18(e), 18(g)
Government Department
Leo Donnelly
Case number(s):
Issue date:

Request for DIA employee’s recollection of events that occurred when she was employed by another agency—DIA not deemed to hold information because not held by employee in that person’s capacity as such an employee—information that cannot be recalled is not held—s 18(g) applies

A requester sought a Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) employee’s recollection of events that occurred in 1997/98 when she was employed at the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). He complained to the Ombudsman when DIA transferred his request to IRD, and when IRD refused that request under section 18(e) (document does not exist or cannot be found). He noted that official information could include information in the minds of staff.

The Ombudsman found the transfer to IRD was reasonable because the request was more closely connected with its functions. The only way DIA could be deemed to hold the information was under section 2(4) of the OIA, but although the information may have been held in the mind of a DIA employee, it was not ‘in that person’s capacity as such an employee’, but in their capacity as a former IRD employee.

IRD had also enquired of the DIA employee whether she recalled the events in 1997/98. She did not. The Ombudsman consulted the DIA employee himself, and accepted her assurance that she did not recall the events, twenty years ago, relating to this OIA request.

The Ombudsman concluded that, although the refusal under section 18(e) was not appropriate because the requested information was not comprised in a document, it was open to IRD to refuse the request under section 18(g) because the information was not held.

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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