25 February 2011
Section 47(3)(e) and section 52(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act
The applicant applied to the Department of Infrastructure and Planning (Department) under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) for access to a range of documents broadly relating to sewerage and plumbing issues in her street for a specified period including certain Ministerial correspondence.
The Department refused access to the requested documents under section 47(3)(e) and section 52(1)(a) of the RTI Act on the basis that they did not exist. The applicant however applied for external review on the basis of sufficiency of search.
The Department explained that the relevant documents did not exist as documents of the Department because:
· the Department was not involved in planning policies and instruments on population capacity of sewerage pipes or plans to upgrade or replace sewerage pipes and these documents may be held by the relevant council
· any correspondence addressed to the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning would be received by the Minister’s Office and would only become a document of the Department if referred to the Department
· in this instance, the Department did not locate any correspondence that had been referred to it from the Minister’s Office that was relevant to the access application.
The Department also provided details of the searches it had conducted of both its electronic record keeping systems and hardcopy files.
Having regard to the decision in PDE and the University of Queensland (Unreported, Queensland Information Commissioner, 9 February 2009) and the relevant submissions, the Right to Information Commissioner affirmed the Department decision and found that:
· there were reasonable grounds for the Department to be satisfied that the requested documents did not exist as documents of the Department
· the Department had taken all reasonable steps to locate the requested documents; and
· access to the requested documents could be refused under section 47(3)(e) and 52(1)(a) of the RTI Act.