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Key Focus Areas
Obtaining reasons for decisions made by CERA about you
Q: CERA has made a decision about me, can I find out why that decision was made and the reasons for it?
A: Yes; there is a general means of obtaining information about decisions made by CERA about you.
Section 23 of the Official Information Act (OIA) provides a general way of getting information about decisions made by CERA; it provides you with the right to access information about decisions that affect you. Click here to read more.
By asking for this information you can then decide whether the decision is based on a correct and complete understanding of the facts. You can also see what information has been relied upon, and the reasons for making the decision. If there is any error or misunderstanding of the situation then you are in a better position to ask CERA to review its decision.
The information could be used to decide whether to take your issue up with the Office of the Ombudsmen. More information about the functions of the Office of Ombudsmen can be found here
The information could also be used in deciding whether to seek judicial review.
Q: What is the maximum timeframe for responding to Official Information requests, if the responding body has asked for more time without specifying a time-frame?
A: OIA information states that this time limit can be extended for a “reasonable period” if the information holder needs more time, but does not specify what a reasonable period is.
The Ombudsmen’s OIA Guidelines say this:
A decision on the request must be made within 20 working days of the request unless the agency extends the time for answering. Section 15A of the OIA provides that the time limit may be extended if:
- The request is for a large quantity of information or necessitates a search through a large quantity of information, and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the agency; or
- Consultations which are necessary to make a decision on the request mean that a proper response to the request cannot reasonably be made within the original time limit.
Any extension of the time limit for response must be for a “reasonable period of time having regard to the circumstances”.
If an agency intends to extend the time limit for response, it must notify the requester before the expiry of the original time limit of the intention to extend the time for reply, the period of the extension, the reason for the extension and the right to make a complaint to the Ombudsman about the extension.
The Act does not allow for further extensions to be notified if the original extension cannot be met. In this regard, agencies should bear in mind that the time limits expressed in the Act are maximums. Any extension of the maximum time limit for response should be realistic, given that multiple extensions are not permitted.
If a decision is not made within 20 working days, or within the extended time frame, the request is deemed to have been refused and the requester has the right to ask an Ombudsman to investigate that deemed refusal.
Similarly, if a decision is made and the requester is notified within the statutory time limit that the information will be made available, but there is then an unreasonable delay in actually supplying the information to the requester, the request is deemed to have been refused. The requester has the right to ask an Ombudsman to investigate that deemed refusal.”
That means the agency has to specify how long the extension will be; it can’t be open-ended. If the requester thinks that the agency has chosen a limit that is not reasonable the requester can complain to the Ombudsmen. How long is reasonable will depend on what is being sought, how easily that can be retrieved and the responder’s ability to meet the request given the factors set out above.