The FOI Commissioner has the power to review decisions of agencies in relation to FOI requests.
The FOI Commissioner can review decisions of agencies to:
- refuse access to a document under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (External link);
- defer access to a document;
- not waive or reduce an application fee; or
- refuse to amend a personal record.
Applications for review of an FOI decision must be made to the FOI Commissioner within 28 days of receiving the decision from the agency. The FOI Commissioner has 30 days to conduct a review, unless the applicant agrees to an extended period in writing. There are no fees or costs associated with requesting a review.
The FOI Commissioner aims to conduct reviews in a timely, efficient and fair manner, with an emphasis on informal resolution.
The FOI Commissioner cannot review:
- a principal officer’s decision (e.g. a Departmental Secretary or Council CEO);
- a Minister’s decision; or
- an agency’s decision that a document is exempt on Cabinet or national security grounds.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (External link) has power to review these types of decisions.
The FOI Commissioner can investigate complaints about an agency where:
- the agency decides a requested document does not exist or cannot be located;
- there is a delay by the agency in processing an FOI request; and
- there has been any other action taken or failed to be taken by an agency in performing its functions and obligations under the FOI Act.
The FOI Commissioner can investigate complaints about a Minister where:
- there is a delay by a Minister in dealing with an FOI request;
- there has been action taken or failed to be taken by a Minister in deferring access to a document under section 24 of the FOI Act.
- there has been action taken or failed to be taken by a Minister in deciding to disclose a document containing personal or commercial information, under sections 33 or 34 of the FOI Act.
A complaint to the FOI Commissioner must be made in writing and made within 60 days after the date of the action or conduct complained of.
The FOI Commissioner will deal with complaints in private.
The FOI Commissioner will resolve complaints informally, if it is possible to do so. Agencies and Ministers have an obligation to cooperate with the FOI Commissioner in relation to complaints made about them.
There is no statutory timeframe in the FOI Act to investigate a complaint.
The FOI Commissioner may decide to not accept or to dismiss a complaint at any time. The FOI Commissioner can also refer a complaint to a more appropriate person or body.