Cosser and Department of Education, Training and the Arts
(210447, 9 March 2009)
Section 28A(1) – refusal of access – agency to be satisfied document does not exist
The applicant sought access to a range of documents held by the Department of Education, Training and the Arts (DETA) concerning her. During the course of the review, DETA located 5,454 documents, the majority of which it agreed to fully release to the applicant. DETA claimed that in respect of those documents not fully released to the applicant, these qualified for full or partial exemption/exclusion under sections 44(1), 45(1)(c) and 27(3) of the FOI Act. Although the applicant did not contest the application of these exemption/exclusion claims, she did submit that DETA’s searches for documents had been inadequate.
Applying the principles set out by the Acting Information Commissioner in PDE and University of Queensland (unreported decision of 9 February 2009) that for the purposes of section 28A(1) of the FOI Act, whether an agency is ‘satisfied’ that a document does not exist is an evaluative judgement based on the knowledge and experience of the agency with respect to, among other key factors, relevant administrative practices and procedures including but not exclusively information management approaches.
In the current review, DETA had undertaken extensive searches for any documents held by it relating to the applicant. In the circumstances, Assistant Commissioner Henry decided that the searches undertaken by DETA would have captured all documents within its possession responsive to the FOI Application. Assistant Commissioner Henry was therefore satisfied that no further documents responsive to the FOI Application existed, meaning access to such documents could be denied under section 28A(1) of the FOI Act.