Middleton and Building Services Authority
(310382, 24 December 2010)
Section 41 of the RTI Act – refusal to deal; substantial and unreasonable diversion of agency resources
The applicant sought access to various documents held by the Building Services Authority (BSA).
The BSA identified approximately 450 files relevant to the application and gave the applicant written notice (Notice) of its intention not to deal with the application pursuant to section 41 of the RTI Act, explaining BSA estimated that dealing with the application would involve processing at least 45,000 documents.
The BSA explained relevant consultation provisions, invited the applicant to reconsider the terms of the application to enable BSA to process it, gave an example of how the terms might be amended and invited the applicant to contact the BSA with any queries on two occasions.
The applicant subsequently amended her application (Changed Application). The BSA acknowledged the applicant’s effort to amend the scope of her application and explained that although the new scope limited the number of pages, the content still related to approximately 450 complaints. The BSA had regard to the resources that would be used to process the Changed Application and provided information to support its claim that to process the Changed Application would still be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of the BSA’s resources. The BSA therefore decided not to deal with the Changed Application on this basis.
The applicant applied to this Office for external review of the BSA’s decision to refuse to deal with her application.
Following consideration of each party’s submissions and the requirements of sections 41 and 42 of the RTI Act, Right to Information Commissioner Mead found:
- BSA had satisfied the prerequisities set out in section 42 of the RTI Act before refusing to deal with the application
- BSA had not had regard to the applicant’s reasons for applying for access
- BSA had regard to the resources that would be used for the following:
- identifying, locating or collating any documents in BSA’s filing system
- making copies, or edited copies of any documents
- deciding whether to give, refuse or defer access to any documents, including resources that would have to be used in examining any documents or conducting third party consultations; and
- notifying any final decision on the application.
- BSA’s assessment of the work involved in processing the Changed Application was detailed and submissions were supported by quantative data
- the applicant’s submission that the BSA had made ‘unrealistic’ assumptions about the work involved in dealing with her application could not be supported.
Accordingly, Right to Information Commissioner Mead affirmed the BSA’s decision to refuse to deal with the Changed Application under section 41 of the RTI Act on the basis that it would substantially and unreasonably divert BSA’s resources from their use by the agency in performing its functions.