Can internal review timeframes be extended?
Both the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) and Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act) allow a person to apply to have the decision on their access application reviewed by the agency that dealt with the application. This is known as internal review.
Applying for internal review
Under both Acts, internal review applications must be made within 20 business days after the date of the written notice of decision. However, this timeframe can be extended.
Section 82(c) of the RTI Act and section 96(c) of the IP Act give an agency the discretion to allow further time for an applicant to lodge an internal review application. The decision to allow further time can be made before or after the end of the 20 business day timeframe.
The legislation does not set out what factors an agency can or should consider in deciding whether to allow additional time for an application to be made. However, if an applicant has a reasonable basis for needing further time, it would be beneficial to the applicant and in the spirit of the legislation to agree to the request.
Conducting an internal review
Under the RTI and IP Acts, an agency is required to make a decision on an internal review application as soon as practicable. However, section 83(2) of the RTI Act and section 97(2) of the IP Act require that if an agency does not decide an internal review application and notify the applicant of the decision within 20 business days after an internal review application is made, the agency is taken to have affirmed the original decision.
There is no provision which allows an agency to seek an extension of time to make an internal review decision, even where the applicant is agreeable to an extension.
Any consultation with third parties must be carried out within the 20 business day timeframe. For example, if circumstances have changed since the original decision was made (such as finalisation of an investigation or additional documents located) and an agency is considering the release of information which may reasonably be of concern to a third party, there is no allowance for an additional 10 business days for undertaking consultation.
An agency must give an applicant a prescribed written notice of the decision as soon as practicable after a decision is made or taken to have been made. This includes decisions that have not been made in time.
Please see the OIC guideline: Internal review for further guidance on the requirements regarding internal review, including which decisions may be internally reviewed.