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High Level Review Group on the Freedom of Information Act 1997 - Report to the Government


Summary of Recommendations

  1. Deletion of the discretion under Section 19 (1) of the Act by replacing may with shall 

  2. Amend Section 19 (1) (c)  (solely) to ensure that it applies to records which were created with the purpose of being used at a Cabinet meeting even if they are incidentally applied to other purposes 

  3. Provide for exemption of records of an expert or working group(of officials) set up to assist Cabinet deliberations on any matter which has been submitted to Cabinet for consideration and which is mandated to report directly to Cabinet on the matter; provide that a certificate must be given by the Secretary General to the Government at the time of establishment of the group 

  4. Provide that communications between Ministers be exempt where:
    they relate to a matter already on the Cabinet agenda or on which a submission to Cabinet is imminent or they relate to a matter which has been delegated by Cabinet for resolution between Ministers 

  5. Extend the period of protection for Cabinet records to 10 years 

  6. Clarify definition of factual information in Section19 

  7. Consideration of re-balancing public interest test in Section 20 to require that records be released where the public interest would be better served by disclosure than by refusal of a request 

  8. Initiate a system for more formal consultation between Departments on material to be released 

  9. Inclusion of relevant recommendations, from CSUN review of operation of Act, in legislative amendments 

  10. Introduction of an up front fee for FOI requests with appropriate waivers and consideration of a fee for reviews and the basis of which fees are calculated 

  11. Early progress in significant programme of extensions of operation of the Act

  12. Inclusion of additional measures identified by the Department of Finance in the legislative amendments to be brought forward

  13. Consideration of alternative/additional measures to be brought forward which would provide an enhanced degree of protection (including the possibility of exemption) to communications in the conduct of international relations 

  14. Continued development of FOI networks 

  15. Completion of review of operation of National Archives Act vis-à-vis the Freedom of Information Act

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