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ICO urges authorities to ‘familiarise themselves’ with Pati legislation

The shipwreck Vixen (Photograph by Andrew Stevenson)

Information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez has urged public authorities to “familiarise themselves” with the Public Access to Information Act and consult a code of practice when dealing with requests for records.

The commissioner issued the reminder after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources failed to get a senior civil servant to review one of its decisions, as required by law.

Ms Gutierrez, in a recent decision, said an applicant made a request for records about historic wrecks in February 2021 and the department responded in the statutory six-week time frame.

But the head of the public authority – in this case, Ministry of Home Affairs permanent secretary Rozy Azhar – did not issue a decision after the dissatisfied requester asked the department for an internal review at the end of April.

Ms Gutierrez wrote that the permanent secretary should have responded by June 9, as the Act gives public authorities a maximum of six weeks to reply with a review decision and reasons.

She said the department wrote to the applicant on May 14 "in an effort to be of assistance and comply with the Pati Act’s requirements“ but that could not be considered an internal review decision as it was not issued by Ms Azhar.

Ms Gutierrez added that during her review, the department "explained that, because it was not aware that the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs was its head of authority for the purposes of the Pati Act, the applicant’s internal review request was never brought to the head of authority’s attention.“

She said she accepted the department’s explanation and that it acted in good faith, and she noted that a proper internal review decision had since been issued.

"The Information Commissioner wishes to use this opportunity, however, to remind public authorities to familiar themselves with the provisions of the Pati Act and to consult the Minister’s Pati practice code when handling Pati requests,“ she wrote.

“The Information Commissioner commends the department for its responsiveness and co-operation while bringing itself into compliance with the Pati Act.”

* To read the ICO decision in full and its press release, click on the PDFs under Related Media.

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Published September 02, 2021 at 7:52 am (Updated September 02, 2021 at 7:43 am)

ICO urges authorities to ‘familiarise themselves’ with Pati legislation

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