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4. Making a Decision
The FOI officer reviews and assesses all documents falling within the terms of the request and makes a decision as to whether exemptions apply to all or some of these documents. A decision is made in relation to each of the relevant documents. This decision can be:
- to release the document in full;
- to release the document in part;
- to exempt the document in full; or
- that there are no relevant documents in the possession of the agency.
Decision makers can also defer access to documents in accordance with section 24 of the Act (if the document has been prepared for presentation to Parliament or a Council or for release to the press).
If any of the documents sought are exempt in part or full, if no documents can be found or if access is deferred the applicant must be sent a decision letter (sometimes called a section 27 letter). This letter sets out the reasons for the decision made in relation to each of the relevant documents and will detail:
- the findings on any material questions of fact, and the reason for the decision (i.e. the exemption used, why it was used and the factors considered when deciding to use it);
- the name and designation of the person making the decision;
- state if information has been deleted from the document in accordance with section 25; and
- the applicant’s right to seek a review of the decision, who the request for a review should be made to and the time period within which a request for review must be made.
Circulating the decision
The decision may be circulated for noting by an appropriate manager/director. The decision may be accompanied by a memorandum highlighting important issues pertaining to the request and may include the relevant documents intended for release.