Section 11 - Transferring a request

Summary

There are occasions where an applicant requests information from a public body that would be more appropriately handled by another public body.  When public body A receives a request for a record, subsection 11(1) of the Act gives the head of public body A up to 20 days to transfer the request to public body B, if:

  • the record was produced by or for public body B;
  • public body B was the first to obtain the record; or,
  • the record is in the custody or under the control of public body B.

Subsection 11(2) specifies how the transferring and receiving public bodies respond to the applicant.

Section Reference

Section 11 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

11 (1) Within 20 days after a request for access to a record is received by a public body, the head of the public body may transfer the request and, if necessary, the record to another public body if

(a) the record was produced by or for the other public body,

(b) the other public body was the first to obtain the record,

(c) the record is in the custody or under the control of the other public body.

(2) If a request is transferred under subsection (1),

(a) the head of the public body who transferred the request must notify the applicant of the transfer, and

(b) the head of the public body to which the request is transferred must respond to the applicant in accordance with section 8 not later than 30 days after the request is received by that public body unless this time limit is extended under section 10.

Policy

  1. Public bodies shall make every reasonable effort, as quickly as possible, to assist applicants in locating the records that satisfy their information needs, wherever they are held. This duty to assist includes locating the public body best able to handle the request.  See section 6 (Duty to assist applicants).

  2. Prior to a public body transferring a request to another public body, it must first determine whether the other public body has: 
    1) a copy of the requested record; and, 2) agrees to the transfer.

  3. The public body having the greater interest in a record should process the request. This will best serve the applicant's information needs by ensuring that the personnel most familiar with the information process the request.

  4. Public bodies must notify applicants of transfers of requests.

  5. Where an applicant has made an identical request to more than one public body, the public bodies should coordinate their responses to avoid providing identical documents. The applicant is entitled to request that two or more public bodies process the identical request.

  6. Where requests involve different records held by more than one public body, a public body may transfer part of the request to the public body that has a greater interest for part of the request.

  7. Committees, task forces, etc., in which more than one public body participates, should revise their terms of reference to assign responsibility for processing requests to a particular public body on behalf of the committee.  This advice applies only to requests that seek records relating to the committee itself and not to its member public bodies.  Where an applicant requests committee-related records whose greater interest lies with a specific public body, that public body processes the request.

  8. Where a public body receives a request for information about an internal audit initiated by the Internal Audit Branch, the public body transfers the request to the Ministry of Finance.  If the audit was carried out at the request of the ministry under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Internal Audit Branch, the ministry that requested the audit has a greater interest in the records and processes the request.

  9. If a public body receives a request for a record which has been transferred to the legal custody of BC Archives or to the archives of another public body, it no longer has custody or control of the record and must transfer the request to the appropriate archives.

Procedure

  1. Before a public body transfers a request to another public body, it ensures that the second public body has a copy of the requested record, and that the receiving public body agrees to the transfer.  A public body may decline to accept a transfer if the requested record has no connection with its duties and functions.  Where a public body declines a transfer, or the public bodies cannot agree on how to split the request between themselves, the public body that originally received the request must process the entire request. 

  2. The public body that receives the request from the applicant must transfer the request to another public body within 20 days if a transfer is appropriate and if the receiving public body has agreed to the transfer. See Calculation of Time.   If the request is not transferred within 20 days, the public body that originally received the request is responsible for responding to the applicant and coordinating the request.

  3. Where a public body transfers a request, the public body that receives the request has 30 days from the date of receipt to respond to the request.  The transferring public body notifies the applicant of the transfer and the receiving public body notifies the applicant of the receipt of the transfer.

Interpretation

Interpretation Note 1:

Same record, different context

In cases where two public bodies have the same or similar records, an applicant may ask public body A to process the request, even though public body B may have a greater interest in the record (see the discussion of "greater interest" below).  This might occur where the applicant believes that public body A's copies are recorded in a different, and more relevant, context than public body B's, or where the records held by public body A contain marginal notes.

Example:

  • Public body A holds records that contain marginal notes.  These notes are not written on public body B's copies of the same records.

Interpretation Note 2:

Greater interest

Even in instances where two public bodies have a copy of a record, one public body normally has a greater interest in the record.  A public body has a greater interest in a record if the contents of the record are more closely related to its mandate and functions. 

The public body having a greater interest in a record is normally the body that processes the request.  This will best serve the applicant's information needs by ensuring that the personnel most familiar with the information process the request and that decisions on disclosure are made in the most appropriate context. 

Where public body B has a greater interest, public body A may transfer the request and, if necessary, the record to public body B.  If transferred, the transfer is made with the prior agreement of public body B.  Public body A confirms that public body B can locate the records and has a greater interest in the record before transferring. 

To determine which body has the greater interest, public bodies should review the criteria listed under "Control". The public body that satisfies the largest number of control criteria should process the request.  As well, public bodies should consider which body has the greater knowledge of the record and its subject matter. 

Public bodies may agree between themselves to allocate processing of requests to specific bodies, even though the processing body may not have the greater interest. Public bodies are encouraged to follow this procedure for administrative convenience, if it does not adversely affect the applicant's interests. 

Examples:

  • The Ministry of the Environment receives a request for a submission to Cabinet on land use strategies in Clayoquot Sound.  The submission was prepared by the Ministry of Forests which has a greater interest in the record.  The Ministry of Environment transfers the request to the Ministry of Forests. 

  • A ministry may have the report of an audit conducted by the Internal Audit Branch of the Ministry of Finance.  If the audit was carried out at the request of the ministry under a Memorandum of Understanding with Internal Audit Branch, the ministry that requested the audit has a greater interest in the records.  If the audit was initiated by Internal Audit Branch acting as a central agency of government, the Ministry of Finance has a greater interest in those records. 

  • Where a municipality receives a request for records relating to a regional sewer project within municipal boundaries, the Regional District would nevertheless have the greater interest.  The municipality transfers the request to the Regional District. 

  • A public health nurse employed by the Ministry of Health maintains records in an office at the high school where the nurse works.  Although both public bodies may have copies of the records, the Ministry of Health has a greater interest in those records than the school.  If the school receives a request for those records, it transfers the request to the Ministry of Health.

Interpretation Note 3:

Discretionary exceptions and transfers

Where an applicant requests a record from public body A and the information falls within a discretionary exception (e.g., section 15, law enforcement information), yet public body B has a greater interest in the record,

  • Public body A should transfer the request to public body B, after obtaining B's permission to transfer; and

  • Public body B should exercise the discretion to except or disclose because of B's greater knowledge of the record.

Interpretation Note 4:

Partial transfers

Some requests may deal with records in the custody or under the control of more than one public body.  In these cases, a public body may transfer part of the request to a public body that has a greater interest.  The first public body will process the portion of the request dealing with its records, and the second public body will process the remainder.  The public bodies will maintain contact during the response period.

The section 11 time limits for notice and transfer of requests apply to partial transfers of requests.  This requires careful coordination by public bodies to avoid missing part of the request.

Examples:

  • Hospital A receives a request for health records related to the applicant's care and treatment.   The applicant was also treated at Hospital B and Hospital A relied on Hospital B's records for certain portions of its care planning although it did not keep copies of those records after the patient was discharged.  Hospital A processes the request or records created in Hospital A and transfers the request to Hospital B for those records created in Hospital B.

  • Where a request involves only a few records from another public body, the volume and significance of the second public body's records may not warrant a partial transfer.  In such a case, the public body that originally received the request may process the entire request in consultation with the second public body.

Sectional Index of Commissioner's Orders

For orders organized by the Act's section numbers, Click here.

Appendices

LETTERS:
11-1:  Notice of Transfer of Request
11-2:  Notice of Receipt of Transfer of Request

Last updated: July 13, 2007