Where an applicant makes an access applications under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act)1 that is not valid (called a purported application) an agency is required to follow specific steps, giving the applicant a chance to make the application valid. If the applicant does not make their application valid, the agency2 can make a decision not to process the application because it is not valid. This is a reviewable decision.
The requirements of a valid application are set out in section 24 of the RTI Act and section 42 of the IP Act.
|RTI Act||IP Act|
|Be on the approved form, unless the agency decides to accept it in another way that contains all the information requested by the form.||Be on the approved form, unless the agency decides to accept it in another way that contains all the information requested by the form.|
|Be accompanied by the application fee.||No application fee required.|
|Give sufficient information concerning the document to enable an officer of the agency to identify it.||Give sufficient information concerning the document to enable an officer of the agency to identify it.|
|State whether or not the applicant is accessing the documents to benefit another entity (the beneficiary) and, if they are, identify the beneficiary.||No beneficiary requirement.|
|Include evidence of ID, and if the applicant has an agent, include evidence of the agent's ID and evidence of authority3, only if the application is for the applicant's personal information.||Must always include evidence of ID, and if the applicant has an agent, include evidence of the agent's ID and evidence of authority4.|
|State an address to which notices can be sent.||State an address to which notices can be sent.|
Refer to Appendix One for assistance on determining who is the applicant, who is the agent, and who is the beneficiary.
Identification requirements are set out in the Right to Information Regulation 20095. Evidence of authority requirements can vary, depending on the relationship between the applicant and their agent. Agencies should refer to Evidence of Identity and Authority for more information.
Generally, if payment accompanies the application, the application will be valid when it is received by the agency (presuming all other application requirements are satisfied), regardless of how long the agency takes to process the payment. There are some exceptions, however.
If there is a form of payment the agency cannot process, or has made a policy decision not to accept, the application will not be valid when accompanied by that form of payment.
Similarly, if there is a form of payment the agency can only accept in a specific way, the application will not be valid when accompanied by that form of payment made in a different way. For example, if the agency is only able to accept credit card payments made over the phone, even if the applicant includes their credit card details on the application form, the application will not be valid until the applicant makes payment in a way the agency is able to process.
In these circumstances, applicants should be advised of the payment issues as quickly as possible. This is particularly important where they have used the credit card space on the approved form, as they should not be penalised because the approved form does not accurately reflect the agency's situation. It would also be best practice to include any payment limitations on the agency's website.
An access application must give sufficient information concerning the document to enable a responsible officer of the agency to identify the document. Applicants must describe the documents they want to access with sufficient specificity to allow the decision maker to identify the documents being applied for; conduct searches for the documents; and make decisions on the documents.
The size of the agency and the way documents are stored and filed (eg centrally versus regionally) will be relevant when making this determination.
For detailed information on assessing the terms of an application to determine if it is valid, please refer to Assessing the Terms of an Access Application.
The processing period does not commence until the application complies with the requirements of the Act.
An agency must make reasonable efforts to contact the applicant within 15 business days to tell them why their application is non-compliant6 and give them a reasonable opportunity to consult with the agency with the goal of making the application compliant. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances.
OIC encourages agencies that have received noncompliant applications from applicants in extenuating circumstances, such as prisoners, to consider allowing a minimum of 20 business days. For all other applicants, 15 business days will generally be reasonable if there are no circumstances which could delay the process.
It may be necessary to work with the applicant to make their application compliant, and agencies should consider extending time where it is appropriate to do so. If the applicant does not make the application compliant, the agency can make a decision not to process the application.
The applicant is the person who is seeking the document, as per the completed form. They can never be the same person as the agent or the entity for whose benefit the applicant is applying (the beneficiary). Generally, the person who pays the application fee will be the applicant.
People completing the application form may be confused about whether they answer the question referring to agents or to beneficiaries if they are applying on someone else’s behalf. If they have put the same details in both sections of the application form you will need to contact them to clarify the situation.
There are a number of possible combinations of agent, applicant and beneficiary:
Rory (applicant) applies for access to Amy’s personnel file.
New Dog Magazine (applicant) applies for documents about the Department of Dogs’ State-wide ban on off-leash dog parks. Donna is a journalist employed by the Magazine and the nominated contact person.
A freelance journalist (applicant) wants to demonstrate to New Dog Magazine that her proposed story is accurate; she applies to the Department of Dogs for access to documents about the number of purebred dogs registered in the last decade, intending to give the documents to the Magazine (beneficiary).
A parent (applicant) applies to the Department of Roads for information about plans to upgrade a road near their children’s school. They intend to give the information they receive to the Parents & Citizens Association (beneficiary).
Tony (applicant) wants to access his complaint file from the Department of Complaints but he is in hospital. He asks Sandra (agent) to make the application for him and deal with the process.
New Dog Magazine (applicant) intends to sue their competitor and wants access to the Department of Publications’ records. They retain a lawyer (agent) to make the application on their behalf.
New Dog Magazine (applicant) retains a lawyer (agent) to apply on its behalf to the Department of Dogs for documents about their ban on off-leash parks. They intend to give any documents they access to the Dog Club (beneficiary) and the local newspaper (beneficiary).
Current as at: September 11, 2019