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What will happen to my FOI complaint?

You can complain about an agency’s actions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). This is a separate process from asking for an Information Commissioner review following a decision made under the FOI Act. Complaints usually focus on how an agency has handled your freedom of information (FOI) request or complied with other obligations under the FOI Act, rather than the decision itself.

For further information on if you can make a complaint, please see How do I make an FOI complaint?

What will happen to my complaint?

When you make an FOI complaint, an OAIC staff member will contact you to discuss your complaint and you will be kept informed of the progress of your complaint.

Before deciding whether to investigate your complaint, we may make preliminary inquiries of the agency you have complained about.

If the Information Commissioner decides to investigate your complaint, we will write to the agency and request information to assist with the investigation.

When can the Information Commissioner decide not to investigate my complaint?

The Information Commissioner may decide not to investigate, or may discontinue an investigation, if:

  • it is more appropriate to conduct an Information Commissioner review of the decision
  • your complaint does not concern an agency's action under the FOI Act
  • it is more appropriate for you to complain to another body (such as the agency or the Commonwealth Ombudsman)
  • the agency you complained about has dealt with your complaint, or is dealing with it
  • your complaint is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, lacking in substance or not made in good faith
  • you do not have sufficient interest in the matter.

If the Information Commissioner decides not to investigate or discontinues an investigation, we will notify you and the agency of the reasons for this.

How will my FOI complaint be resolved?

In some cases, the Information Commissioner's investigation of a complaint may lead to the agency addressing the issues that you have complained about. In other cases, the Information Commissioner may make suggestions or recommendations that the agency should implement. The Information Commissioner can only make non-binding recommendations as a result of a complaint. You and the agency will be notified of the outcome of the investigation.

Can the Ombudsman investigate FOI complaints?

The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about action taken by agencies under the FOI Act. However, generally the Ombudsman will consult the OAIC to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.

The Information Commissioner can transfer a complaint to the Ombudsman. This may happen if the FOI complaint is one part of a wider complaint that the Ombudsman is investigating.

For more information, visit the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s website.