Order 97-006: Summary
DATE: June 25, 1997
PUBLIC BODY: Alberta Municipal Affairs
FOIP REQUEST: The applicant requested access to information regarding the approval and inspection process for a condominium subdivision development, including the sewage disposal system. The applicant felt that the information the applicant received from Municipal Affairs was incomplete, misleading, edited and did not address the applicant's request. The applicant subsequently asked the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the matter.
ISSUES: The applicant submitted that, although sufficient detail was given to describe the requested records, Municipal Affairs failed to provide what the applicant was seeking. The Commissioner considered whether the department had conducted an adequate search and met its duty to assist the applicant (section 9(1)).
DECISION AND REASONS:
- The Commissioner noted that section 67(1) of the FOIP Act, which establishes the burden of proof on the parties, is silent regarding the issue of adequate search. The Commissioner decided that, since the public body is in a better position to address the adequacy of a search, the burden of proof should be placed on the public body.
- The Commissioner found that Municipal Affairs conducted an adequate search for responsive records. In response to the original request Municipal Affairs conducted a search and disclosed over 300 pages of records with third party information severed. Some documents that were not responsive to the request were among those disclosed. After clarifying the applicant's request Municipal Affairs conducted a second search of records in its custody and control and no additional records relating to the request were found.
- Municipal Affairs also made every reasonable effort to assist the applicant openly, accurately and completely. This finding was based on four factors: (a) as the applicant's request was received shortly after the FOIP Act was proclaimed Municipal Affairs was learning about the Act while processing this request; (b) Municipal Affairs disclosed a large amount of information to the applicant; (c) any delay in processing the request was due to the applicant's late payment of fees; and, (d) Municipal Affairs granted a fee waiver to the applicant, as well as reimbursing the applicant for fees relating to records that were not of interest to him.
- The Commissioner noted that many records of interest to the applicant had been transferred to a municipality that had assumed responsibility for a program formerly administered by Municipal Affairs. He commended the department for locating these records. However, the Commissioner also noted that public bodies had been coordinating their responses to this applicant and said that he would be monitoring the operation of information networks to ensure that they did not work to hinder access.
The Commissioner ordered that Municipal Affairs had conducted an adequate search for the responsive records and had made every reasonable effort to assist the applicant.
SECTOR: Government - Departments