This checklist highlights the key elements in preparing a statement of reasons under s 26 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). You should refer to the FOI Guidelines for full details: Part 3 (Processing and deciding on requests for access).
Your summary should include these points:
Checklist for preparing a statement of reasons under the FOI Act
State your authority to make the decision on behalf of the agency under s 23 of the FOI Act.
Quote or accurately paraphrase the terms of the request, including any clarification or variation in its scope resulting from subsequent consultation with the applicant.
Confirm agreed time frames resulting from consultation with the applicant. If relevant, also refer to extensions of time under ss 15(6) or 15(8) or as allowed by the Information Commissioner (ss 15AB or 15AC).
If you have not already done so, prepare a schedule of documents to attach to the decision.
In the body of your statement you should:
Identify the documents considered relevant to the request. If there are a large number, refer to an attached schedule.
List the material used to make the decision and to explain the reasons for the decision (for example, any recommendations, submissions and procedures).
Quote relevant sections of the FOI Act if significant to your decision (either as an attachment or in the body of the decision letter). This may not always be necessary: simply referring to the relevant legislative provision may suffice. Use your judgement.
Set out your decision clearly and precisely, specifying how it relates to each document where necessary.
Explain in detail why each exempt document (or part of a document) meets the criteria for exemption or conditional exemption, including any public interest considerations taken into account and the weight given to them. Merely asserting that a document is exempt is not enough.
Explain how the evidence and findings of material facts support the decision (including what material was used to make the decision, such as guidelines, procedures and third party submissions).
If relevant to the particular case, explain why deletions could not be made so that an edited (redacted) document could be released.
At the end of your statement you should:
Remind the applicant that the balance of any charges due, if not already settled, must be paid before access can be provided. However, if your decision is out of time, you cannot impose any charge and you must refund any deposit paid.
Provide information about the applicant’s rights to internal and IC review, as well as the right to complain to the agency or the Information Commissioner. If you have consulted a third party, refer to their review rights and the effect on access to documents.
Release of documents
If a third party was consulted under ss 26A, 27 or 27A and they objected to the release of a document, do not provide access to that document until all the third party’s opportunities for review have run out.
If there are no third party review rights and you are releasing documents, either provide copies of the document(s) or explain when and how copies of the document(s) will be provided.
Check that any intended attachments are attached.
Ensure your name and designation is in your signature block and sign and date the letter.
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