15 February 2018

Government may have greater duty to make public documents provided by external parties

External parties sometimes provide documents as part of their communication with the authorities, to help the authorities take a decision. Until recently, the courts accepted that these documents did not necessarily have to be made public under the Government Information (Public Access) Act (Wob). This was because documents intended for internal discussion did not have to be made public, even if the external party may have had a stake in the matter. However, in a recent ruling the Dutch Council of State limited the scope of this exception. The Council of State ruled that there is no question of “internal discussion” if an external party with a stake in the matter discussed, provides documents related to their own interest. In that situation, the authorities may be required to make the documents provided by that external party public. It is good to be aware of this in your communication with any authority.