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1. Is it a Valid Request
Section 17 of the Act sets out the requirements for a valid FOI request. To be valid a request must:
- be in writing;
- attach the appropriate FOI application fee (agencies may waive or reduce the application fee); and
- provide sufficient information concerning the document(s) sought to enable them to be identified.
Requests can sometimes be vague, too wide, ambiguous, or unduly onerous. Under the Act, agencies have a duty to consult with the applicant in situations where:
- the request is not valid because it does not adequately identify the documents sought;
- the request is not valid because it is not clear or is open to more than one interpretation; or
- the request while valid, is so wide ("voluminous") that the agency considers that processing it would divert its resources substantially and unreasonably (section 25A).
Only after this assistance has been offered can an agency refuse to process a request.