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The ombuds function according to the IFG (Freedom of Information Act)

Anyone can appeal to the Federal Commissioner for Freedom of Information if they consider their right to access to information pursuant to the Federal Freedom of Information Act to have been violated.

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The Freedom of Information Act (IFG) grants free access to official information.

Its purpose is to create transparency and comprehensibility of administrative action through access to information. In addition to the IFG and the UIG (“Environmental Information Act”), there are other special regulations governing the access to information at federal level. However, in this regard, I have no ombudsman function.

The appeal to the BfDI

The right to access to information can be violated, in particular, by a partial or complete rejection of access to information which is not justified by the exceptional circumstances of the IFG, by the setting of excessive fees or by the slow handling of the application for access to information.

The Federal Commissioner for Freedom of Information can ask the federal authorities that are subject to the IFG to submit a statement and, where appropriate, he can act as a mediator and work towards achieving a proper procedure. However, he cannot issue any instructions to authorities. If he considers the German Federal Freedom of Information Act to have been violated, he can issue a formal objection and inform the superior authority and, if necessary, the German Bundestag about this matter.

If you appeal to the Federal Commissioner for Freedom of Information because you consider your right to access to information pursuant to the German Federal Freedom of Information Act to have been violated,  for reasons of data protection, please also indicate whether you agree that your name will be disclosed to this public body.  I can only request the public body against which your complaint has been directed to examine your complaint and to submit a statement if you have given your consent to disclose your name. Otherwise, all I can do is to generally remind the public body of the respective provisions in the Act.

Administrative appeal and legal action

It is possible to challenge a negative or restrictive decision on the application for access to information by lodging an administrative appeal or by bringing a legal action to compel performance of the requested administrative act. Only the Administrative Court can repeal the administrative decision in a legally binding and enforceable way. The involvement of the Federal Commissioner will not interrupt or suspend the time limit for lodging an administrative appeal or for bringing an action, even if the Federal Commissioner regards the claim to access to information as well-founded. Therefore, please always check in time whether you would (also) like to appeal against a negative decision (in full or in part).

Do you have general questions about the Federal Freedom of Information Act or the Federal Environmental Information Act, for example on filing an application? Or would you like to seek advice? You are welcome to contact me.