Longer Extensions Under FIPPA
Advisory for public bodies about extensions under FIPPA during the COVID-19 pandemic
The presence of COVID-19 in Manitoba is affecting the operations and staff levels of public bodies. Public bodies should make efforts to comply with FIPPA as is reasonably possible. However, this is an exceptional circumstance and we understand that many public bodies will be unable to meet the 30-day response requirement under FIPPA and this will have an impact on applicants’ right to timely responses to their applications for access.
We will consider these circumstances when we receive requests from public bodies for approval of a longer extension of the 30-day time limit, as well as when we receive complaints about public bodies’ timeliness in responding to access applications.
Where a public body has authority under section 15 of FIPPA for an extension of the 30-day time limit, a request to our office for approval of a longer extension may be submitted to our office.
Due to the evolving situation, public bodies and our office may be unable to reasonably determine an appropriate length of time for a longer extension. In such circumstances, we may approve a longer extension up to at least a specified date, with a requirement for the public body to advise our office in advance of that date, whether additional time will be needed. Then we would assess the current circumstances at that time and may approve a continuation of the extension to another specified date.
If there is no authority for a public body to extend or seek a longer extension under s. 15, our advice to public bodies is to communicate with applicants about the delay, which is in keeping with the duty to assist applicants. We also would advise that public bodies maintain a record of these communications.
Where public bodies have prepared records for release for part of an access request, we suggest that these records be provided to the applicant once they are prepared, rather than waiting until all records have been prepared for release.
If public bodies have any questions about the above, please contact our office by phone or email. Please be aware that our office’s responses may also be delayed due to the pandemic.
Subsection 15(1) of FIPPA permits a public body to extend the 30-day time limit for responding to an access application for up to an additional 30 days, or for a longer period if the ombudsman agrees. If the public body has determined that responding to the request will require more than a total of 60 days, the public body may ask the ombudsman for a longer extension.
When asking for a longer extension, the public body must:
- identify the clause(s) under subsection 15(1) of FIPPA that would permit an extension to be taken and explain how the clause applies to the request
- identify the amount of time being sought by the longer extension and explain why the additional time is needed
- have time remaining within its 30-day time limit or within its extended time limit (if an extension of up to an additional 30 days has already been taken)
For further information about requesting a longer extension, please refer to our practice note, Making a Submission to the Ombudsman for an Extension Longer Than 30 Days Under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
To make a submission to our office seeking a longer extension, complete the Form for Making a Submission to the Ombudsman for an Extension Longer Than 30 Days Under FIPPA:
- the form can be submitted online, or
- filled out and submitted by fax or email (download the fillable pdf form). Note: If you are unable to open the fillable pdf form in your browser, please right click on the link, save the file to your computer and open it with Adobe Reader or Acrobat.
Our office will review the public body’s submission and may ask the public body for additional information or documentation to assist in determining whether the clause being relied upon is applicable and/or whether the additional time requested is reasonable in the circumstances. We will provide our decision about the submission in a letter to the public body.
To allow enough time for our office to consider and respond to the submission, submissions that are provided with less than three business days prior to the expiry of the public body’s time limit (or extended time limit) may not be considered. Submissions received after the public body’s time limit (or extended time limit) for responding has expired cannot be considered.