Section 42(1)(h) Prejudice a system or procedure for the protection of persons, property or environment
The applicant sought access to certain complaint material involving allegations of inappropriate behaviour by a public servant in the course of their official duties. Council submitted that disclosure of this information would prejudice the efficiency of Council’s complaint management system as details which are ordinarily protected by confidentiality would be released. In the circumstances and given that the relevant complainants consented to release of the information, Assistant Commissioner Henry found that the matter in issue did not qualify for exemption from disclosure under section 42(1)(h) of the FOI Act as disclosure of the matter in issue could not reasonably be expected to prejudice Council’s complaint management system.
Section 41(1) Deliberative Process
Council also submitted that the complaint material constituted deliberative process matter, the disclosure of which was contrary to the public interest. Council claimed that the release of the matter in issue would harm the proper investigation of matters by Council employees, undermine confidence in Council’s complaints management system and cause potential harm to the personal reputation of a public servant.
AC Henry also considered that the following public interest considerations favouring disclosure were relevant in the circumstances:
· enhancing the accountability of agencies and individual officers for the performance of their official functions
· promoting informed public participation in the processes of government.
After considering the public interest considerations both for and against disclosure, Assistant Commissioner Henry found that, on balance, disclosure of the complaint material was not contrary to the public interest particularly given the particular circumstances of this review in which the complainants’ consented to release of the information. Accordingly, AC Henry found that the matter in issue did not qualify for exemption from disclosure under section 41(1) of the FOI Act.