Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 2016 (FOI Act) commenced on 1 January 2018.

The objects of the FOI Act are to:

  • provide a right of access to government information unless access to the information would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest
  • recognise the importance of public access to government information for the proper working of representative democracy
  • enable the public to participate more effectively in government processes and to promote improved decision-making within government
  • make the people and bodies that are responsible for governing the ACT more accountable to the public
  • ensure that, to the fullest extent possible, government information is freely and publicly available to everyone
  • facilitate and promote, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost, the disclosure of the maximum amount of government information, and
  • ensure that personal information held by the ACT is accurate, complete, up-to-date and not misleading.

For more information, download our brochure ‘Accessing Government Information’.

You can also view our factsheet: Accessing information under the Freedom of Information Act 2016.

Ombudsman’s functions

Under the FOI Act, the ACT Ombudsman monitors the FOI scheme and promotes the objects of the Act through a range of statutory functions. Information on each of these functions is provided below:

Review of decisions

If you are not satisfied with the decision of an agency or a Minister, you can apply to the Ombudsman for review of the decision. Applications for an Ombudsman review must be in writing - please complete this form: Applying for an Ombudsman Review.

There is no fee for requesting an Ombudsman review.

In most cases, you must apply for an Ombudsman review within 20 working days after the day that notice of the decision was published on the disclosure log.

The Ombudsman has the discretion to allow an application for review made after the 20 working day period.

For more information, please see our factsheet and application form: Applying for an Ombudsman Review.

Complaints

If you have a complaint about an agency or Minister’s action, or failure to take action, in relation to any of their functions under the FOI Act, you may make a complaint to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman will consider your concerns and may conduct an investigation into your complaint.

You can make a complaint about an FOI issue by using our online complaint form, emailing us at actfoi@ombudsman.gov.au or by calling us on (02) 6276 3773.

More information about making a complaint to the ACT Ombudsman is available on our website here.

Please note that making a complaint is different to seeking an Ombudsman review of a decision under the FOI Act.

If you are unsure or need assistance, please email actfoi@ombudsman.gov.au or phone us on (02) 6276 3773.

Granting extensions of time to decide access applications

Under the FOI Act, an agency or Minister has 20 working days to process an access application, unless an extension applies.

More information about timeframes can be found in our factsheet: Processing times for decision-makers.

An agency or Minister can ask the applicant for additional time to process the application. Additional time can be sought more than once, unless the timeframe for making the decision has expired.

If an applicant refuses the request for additional time, the agency or Minister can apply to the Ombudsman for an extension of time of up to 15 working days. The agency or Minister must explain how it is not reasonably possible to deal with the application within the available timeframe because it involves a large volume of information or complex and potentially conflicting public interest factors.

For further information and how to apply please see: Factsheet and form: Applying for extensions of time.

Open access information declarations

Agencies and Ministers must publish open access information.

'Open access information' is defined in the Act and includes information such as:

  • functional information
  • policy documents, and
  • disclosure logs.

The FOI Act gives the Ombudsman the power to issue a declaration that particular government information is open access information and must therefore be made publicly available.

Open access information is usually available on the website of the agency or Minister. We recommend that you refer to the relevant website for the information you are seeking. You can find open access information published by the Ombudsman here.

The Ombudsman has not made any open access information declarations at this time.

Monitoring the FOI Act

The Ombudsman will monitor whether:

  • agencies and Ministers are making open access information publically available, and
  • agencies are acting in a way that is consistent with the expectations set out in the Chief Minister’s annual statement about the Act.

Report on the operation of the FOI Act

The Ombudsman is required to report on the operation of the FOI Act at the end of each financial year. This report is given to the Speaker for presentation to the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Report on the operation of the ACT Freedom of Information Act 2016 (2017-18)

Requests for ACT Ombudsman documents

If you wish to request documents from the ACT Ombudsman, please see: Accessing Information.

Published Ombudsman review decisions

2019

2018

Draft Guidelines under consultation

The ACT Ombudsman has a role in publishing Ombudsman Guidelines under the Freedom of Information Act 2016 (FOI Act). They provide ACT Government agencies with guidance on the interpretation, operation and administration of the FOI Act and promote the legislation’s pro-disclosure objective’s.

The following draft Ombudsman Guidelines are currently under consultation:

Feedback is invited on the draft Guidelines from all interested parties by Friday 26 July 2019. Please provide any feedback to the ACT Ombudsman’s FOI section via email to actfoi@ombudsman.gov.au.

Future Guidelines

A further four volumes of the Ombudsman Guidelines on the FOI Act will be published over 2019 covering the following topics:

  • Public Interest Considerations
  • Processing access applications
  • Amending personal information
  • Reviews and complaints

For more information, please contact the ACT Ombudsman’s FOI section via phone (02) 6276 3773 or email to actfoi@ombudsman.gov.au.

Contact us

Queries about our FOI functions can be emailed to actfoi@ombudsman.gov.au.

You can also contact us through the other channels on our contact us page.