Request for information comparing preferred and declined proposals

Information not held
Official Information Act 1982
Section 18
Legislation display text:
Official Information Act 1982, s 18(e)
Electricity Commission
Dame Beverley Wakem
Case number(s):
Issue date:

Requested document did not exist but would need to be created—s 18(e) applies

At a public hearing, submitters sought information comparing a proposal that had been declined, with one that was preferred. They received what they considered to be an assurance, from the Electricity Commissioner who was presenting at the hearing, that the information would be supplied. When an OIA request for the comparison was subsequently refused under section 18(e), the requester complained to the Ombudsman.

The Chief Ombudsman’s investigation established that the requested comparison had never been done and did not exist, and therefore section 18(e) applied. However, in light of the requester’s belief that they had received an assurance that the comparison would be provided, the Chief Ombudsman considered whether it was reasonable in the circumstances for the Commission to rely on section 18(e). The Chief Ombudsman reviewed the statements made by the Commissioner, and asked the Commission how much work would be involved in creating the information sought.

The Chief Ombudsman concluded that the statements made by the Commissioner did not amount to an unequivocal assurance that the information would be provided. The Commission said it would take 2-3 weeks work from internal staff, plus the use of an external contractor, at an estimated cost of $75,000. Having regard to the estimated cost and diversion from other activities, the Chief Ombudsman concluded the Commission had not acted unreasonably in declining the request.

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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