Ombudsman SA may conduct an external review if you are unhappy with an agency’s response to your application for access to documents, or your request to amend records.
An application for external review can only be made if:
- an internal review of the determination has been conducted; or
- the original determination has been made by, or at the direction of, the principal officer of the agency (usually the Chief Executive), or at the direction of a person or body to which the principal officer is responsible.
You may also seek an external review of the determination by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. If you do this, it prevents a further external review by Ombudsman SA. However, if an external review is sought first from Ombudsman SA, the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is able to conduct a further external review at the conclusion of the Ombudsman’s external review.
An application for review to Ombudsman SA should be made within 30 days of the agency’s determination. The Ombudsman may in certain circumstances extend this time limit.
There are no fees involved in seeking a review by Ombudsman SA.
There is no time limit set in the FOI Act for the conduct of an external review. However, reviews are resolved as promptly as possible and according to the resources of Ombudsman SA. We aim to complete all reviews within 4 months of their lodgement.
Parties to a review
The original applicant and the agency are usually the parties to a review; however, any person who is aggrieved by the determination may apply for an external review. For example, if the agency has made a determination to disclose documents to an applicant in response to an application for access to documents under the FOI Act, and those documents contain information relating to the personal or business affairs of another person without the person’s consent, that person would be entitled to seek an external review by the Ombudsman or the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
There is no particular manner in which a review may be conducted. As the agency carries the burden of justifying the determination, it is usual for the agency to be provided with a formal notice of external review and a report to be sought. The Ombudsman also seeks from the agency copies of the documents which are the subject of the determination.
Ombudsman SA may engage in telephone contact, conferences or receive written submissions from any of the parties during the review.
Often, we will provide a provisional determination to the parties for comment before we determine an application.
Ombudsman SA endeavours at all times to be completely fair to all parties in a review and to give each party adequate opportunity to present its case.
The Ombudsman has the power to investigate any action of the agency during the review, by exercising the powers of a Royal Commission.
Ombudsman SA is able to attempt to reach a settlement between the parties at any stage of the review.
The Ombudsman may confirm, vary or reverse the determination.
The agency is able to seek a review by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal against the determination of the Ombudsman, but only on a question of law.