Change of circumstances, including the passage of time

When investigating a complaint from someone who was refused access to a record under the Access to Information Act, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) reviews the institution’s decision to apply any exemptions to withhold information at the time it makes it. That is usually when an institution responds to the access request, but it could be during the complaint investigation.

When the OIC reviews the application of exemptions, it does not consider circumstances that may have changed since the institution decided to rely on the exemptions, including the passage of time.

Nevertheless, the OIC is of the view that it is a good practice for institutions to release additional information during investigations because of a change of circumstances.  Doing so contributes to a more efficient and effective access to information regime.   This is particularly true when complainants could receive more information if they were to resubmit their access request.

In such cases, the OIC encourages institutions to consider disclosing additional information. Any such additional disclosure will not affect the Information Commissioner’s conclusion on whether a complaint is well founded. In addition, the outcome of the investigation will be consistent with the current outcomes for complaints.

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