What is a serial applicant and how does this concept/reality impact on the access to information regime?
One challenge faced by government institutions with ATI requests, is the ‘serial applicant’. Over a short period of time, this person will make a large number of requests, often repetitive in nature. This creates a substantial amount of information to be assessed prior to disclosure. Many hours may be required to fulfill such requests within the legislated time constraints which can be overwhelming, so much, that the ability to operate, or follow proper access regime is interfered with. When done correctly, requests are processed on time, filled with as much information or disclosure as possible, and decisions are based on the spirit of the legislation.
The effects of ‘serial applicants’ on the system are real and have the potential to create and maintain a backlog of other legitimate access to information requests, impacting the access to information regime again, most likely resulting in complaints. The complaints themselves can be made to the Information Commissioner, where they also have the potential to pile up.