Access to complaint documents

June 1, 2014 - 12:07pm

“I made a complaint two months ago about my neighbour’s barking dog. I want to know what you’ve done about it”.

Sound familiar? Many agencies encounter this situation on a regular basis, where a complainant informally requests, or formally applies for, access to information about a complaint they made.

It may be information about what steps the agency has taken to deal with the complaint, the outcome of the complaint or why the complaint has not yet been finalised.

Due to the nature of the information sought, any information given to the complainant will most likely reveal information about the person who is the subject of the complaint.1

Normally, it would be contrary to the public interest to give access to this information. There are many public interest factors relevant to complaint documents under schedule 4 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act).

However, the list of public interest factors is not exhaustive and agencies can create their own public interest factors relevant to the application at hand.

Some tips for managing these types of information requests and the individual’s expectations include:

  • developing a manual or policy that provides an overview of the agency’s complaint management procedure and then making it available on the agency’s website; or
  • providing individuals with the relevant OIC information sheets or developing your own to explain how the RTI Act works when dealing with information requests relating to complaint documents.

If you would like more information, OIC has developed resources to help you.2

1. See OIC’s Checklist – What is personal information which assists you to determine if information is or is not personal information.
2. See Guideline –  Investigations, outcomes and complainants, Guideline – Applications for investigation and complaint documents, and Information Sheet – Applying for complaint documents.