Business case and pilot for data matching

Justin Warren made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Human Services

The request was refused by Department of Human Services.

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

If possible, please treat this as an informal or administrative request. Otherwise, please treat this as a formal request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

I request copies of the following:

- The business case document(s) for the Pay As You Go (PAYG) data matching initiative that is the subject of Question on Notice HS 15 from the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Budget Estimates hearing on 3 June 2015. http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Busi...
- Documents that describe the algorithm or process used to perform the data matching that identified the "approximately 1,080,000" discrepancies between PAYG data and data reported by DHS customers, as referred to in the Answer to Question HS 15.
- Documents that describe the analysis process for how the value of "historical discrepancies", as described in the Answer to Question HS 15, was determined. Such documents should describe the statistical method, the sampling process used, statistics returned (standard error, mean, confidence interval, etc.), how the likely average debt value was determined, etc.
- Documents containing the program specifications/requirements used to define how the data matching process should be implemented by programmers. Such documents would refer to, for example, the use of certain fields to match on such as ABN, Business Name, Customer Name, etc.

I further request that all charges in relation to this request be waived as this information is in the public interest. There is considerable public interest in the programme as evidenced by the substantial media attention of late. The social welfare payments system is also one of the most substantial outlays of Government funds, and it affects a large proportion of the Australian public. The Australian public is as concerned as the Department is that people receive no more, and no less, than what they are entitled to received.

This information will help to re-assure the Australian public that the data matching process is correct and fair, and that the process for approving the project was conducted with appropriate rigor and due diligence.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services acknowledges receipt of your
correspondence.

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please see attached correspondence in relation to your freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

 

Authorised FOI Decision Maker

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

Finding documentation to support your claims can indeed take a while, particularly if you have to go back a number of years.

I will call you to discuss how to narrow the scope to provide the information I am after without requiring quite so much effort on behalf of the Department.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services acknowledges receipt of your
correspondence.

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

This is to make a public record of my email correspondence with you.

I am copying in my previous email of 6 Feb 2017, a followup to my email on 3 Feb 2017 sent after the DHS switchboard was unable to transfer my call to the FOI department because you apparently don't have a number.

I also note for the record that I have provided you with my contact details and have not, so far, received any phone calls from you to discuss this matter.

On 06/02/17 14:47, FOI.LEGAL.TEAM wrote:
>
> Dear Mr Warren,
>
>
>
> Thank you for your email.

Hi folks!

This would go much faster if you just gave me a call.

>
>
> The terms of your request captures many documents over a large period of time. For
> example, the department has used data matching programs in various forms,
> including using employment related tax data, since 1991.

In my original request, I tried to be very clear that I was specifically speaking of the Business Case referred to in Question on Notice HS 15 in the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Budget Estimates hearing on 3 June 2015. There was even a link: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Busi...

I would be surprised if this single Business Case was more than 10 documents, given that the Department was able to provide such a short summary of it to the Committee in its answer to HS15.

The Department's answer to HS15 refers to "analysing the data matching output from the PAYG files provided by the Australian Taxation Office" to determine the "number of compliance interventions to be undertaken". This is the data matching algorithm or process to which I refer in point 2.

Where multiple revisions of documents exist, I am only interested in the version current at the time the Department refers to in its answer to HS15. For example, where the Department used "existing data matching processes that occur every year" to create the dataset for the analysis it refers to in HS15, I want the version of documents that describe that data matching process as it was performed at the time.

>
>
> In addition, your request covers multiple documents which contain similar information. For
> example, in Part 4, you have requested ‘[d]ocuments that contain the program
> specifications/requirements used to define how the data matching process would be
> implemented by programmers.’ During the development process, there are many points –
> from the planning to implementation stages – where documentation would be created which
> contain program specifications. As a result, processing your request would require locating,
> retrieving and examining a large amount of documents to determine if they contain these
> details.

I only require the final version of the Requirements Specification (or similar document) for the data matching process current just prior to the system going live in approx. June 2016. By 'live' I mean when it was first used to perform the automated data matching process that resulted in discrepancy letters being sent out, variously referred to as the "robo-debt" programme. This should, once again, only be a single document, or small number of documents if the Department used a well-structured project methodology such as PRINCE2.

I'm happy to help resolve the ambiguity by speaking on the electric speaking-type telephone, as I have done with several other government departments with a minimum of fuss.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren

 

I apologise for the delay in our response to confirm we have received your
revised scope.

 

Please see attached correspondence acknowledging your revised freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards

 

 

 

Authorised FOI Decision Maker

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please see attached correspondence in relation to your freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

 

Authorised FOI Decision Maker

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

Thank you for locating the documents.

I continue to assert that all charges in relation to this request should be waived as access to these documents is in the public interest. As I stated in my initial request:

"There is considerable public interest in the programme as evidenced by the substantial media attention of late. The social welfare payments system is also one of the most substantial outlays of Government funds, and it affects a large proportion of the Australian public. The Australian public is as concerned as the Department is that people receive no more, and no less, than what they are entitled to received."

I'm sure you're quite busy, what with all the interest from the general public of late and their numerous FOI requests. Quite possibly you overlooked that portion of my request in your haste to respond fully and completely to everyone's requests for information.

Since making my initial request, a Senate inquiry has been announced into "Design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative." The terms of reference (they're here, btw: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Busi... bear particular relevance to my request, e.g.:

e. data-matching between Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office and the selection of data, including reliance upon Pay As You Go income tax data;

g. the error rates in issuing of debt notices, when these started being identified and steps taken to remedy errors;
h. the Government’s response to concerns raised by affected individuals, Centrelink and departmental staff, community groups and parliamentarians;
j. the adequacy of departmental management of the OCI,

Given there's an inquiry into the matter by one of the houses of Parliament, and the sustained media coverage over the past several weeks, perhaps you'd like to clarify how the release of this information is *not* in the general public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public?

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

You have not responded to my last letter on 16 February 2016, which is over a month ago.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please see the attached correspondence in relation to your freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards

 

 

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

You have agreed that release of the documents would be in the public interest.

I do not accept your contention that, in order to waive the charges, release of the documents must not only be in the public interest but must also "greatly inform public debate".

You helpfully noted certain paragraphs of the OAIC Guidelines for agencies interpreting the FOI Act (https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor.... That has lead me to review the various cases linked in footnotes on that page.

In ‘CF’ and Department of Finance [2014] AICmr 73 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/A..., the Privacy Commissioner found that "The threshold requirement for the public interest test under s 29(5) requires identification of a general public interest or a substantial section of the public whose interest the release of the documents may serve." There is no requirement for the documents to also "greatly inform public debate". That is a much higher threshold that you appear to have invented.

Further, in MacTiernan and Secretary, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (Freedom of Information) [2015] AATA 584 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/A..., The Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that "an agency or minister should always consider whether disclosure of a document would advance the objects of the Act, even though an applicant has not expressly framed a submission on that basis. The objects of the Act include promoting better informed decision making, and increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government’s activities (s 3)."

In its responses to this and many other requests for information the Department appears to be working hard to avoid any and all scrutiny, discussion, comment or review of its activities.

I hereby formally request an internal review of this decision.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

Further to my last letter, I would also like to draw your attention to the following in paragraph 4.74 of the Guidelines that you so helpfully referred to in your latest correspondence:

"If an agency or minister accepts that disclosure of a document would be in the general public interest or that there would be financial hardship to the applicant, it may be difficult for it to justify why a charge has been reduced instead of waived in full."

I do not believe the Department has justified why the charge should not be waived in full.

I further note that in Australian Associated Press Pty Ltd and Department of Immigration and Border Protection [2015] AICmr 65 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/A... the then Acting Australian Information Commissioner, Mr Timothy Pilgrim, found that the charge should be waived in full. Reference was specifically made to MacTiernan and Secretary, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (Freedom of information) [2015] AATA 584 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/A..., where the charges were also waived in full.

The information I have requested has been described by the Department and the government as a critical part of its efforts to recoup some $4 billion in overpayments over the forward estimates. This is substantially greater than the amount of money at stake in MacTiernan (a mere $1 billion), and the cost of processing this request is substantially smaller.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Justin,

 

Please find attached our acknowledgement of your FOI request.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Practitioner

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image004.png@01D1B4D9.510E2740

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request for
documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. Your reference for
this matter is LEX 28561.

 

Kind regards,

 

Lisa
FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services
Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01CF8C5E.459B3DD0

 

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Lisa,

I have read ‘IN’ and Australian Taxation Office [2016] AICmr 33 (27 May 2016) (The 'IN' Decision) and I cannot understand why you are using it to support your position.

The 'IN' Decision relates to the exemption of documents from disclosure under s 47E of the FOI Act, not the reduction or waiver of charges. You are not asserting that the information should not be disclosed, you simply want to charge me money to do so. Or perhaps you are saying the documents should be exempted from disclosure, in which case, why do you want to charge me money to disclose them? Exempt information can be redacted from documents under s22 of the FOI Act, as you should know, so what exactly are you playing at here?

I am similarly perplexed by your assertion that I have not identified a ‘general public interest’ or the ‘substantial section of the public’ that would benefit from disclosure of the documents while simultaneously noting that the Department has been discussing these very issues before a Senate Committee in an ongoing Inquiry. An Inquiry that was set up due to public outcry about the way in which the Department has conducted the programs about which the information in my request directly relates.

It is difficult to imagine a clearer case of general public interest.

What meaning of the words 'general' and 'substantial' are you using, because they appear to be new ones that no one else has heard of before? Perhaps the Macquarie Dictionary should be alerted to this novel and innovative addition to Australian English?

You also appear to be attempting to argue that the information is so sensitive that the general public cannot be allowed to see it, and also that it is already in the public domain. Which is it?

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

Whoever wrote this response isn't very familiar with the Freedom of Information Act.

They wrote "Further, while I accept that the Online Compliance Intervention has been the subject of media attention, consideration of the public interest is not primarily concerned with curiosity or commentary."

s3 (2) of the FOI Act: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/c...

"(2) The Parliament intends, by these objects, to promote Australia's representative democracy by contributing towards the following:

(a) increasing public participation in Government processes, with a view to promoting better-informed decision-making;

(b) increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government's activities."

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

I have just posted a money order to you covering the charges of $510 in full.

I now expect to receive these documents without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

We will notify you when we have received the money order.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence relating to your Freedom of
Information Request.

 

Regards

 

 

Freedom of Information Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

[1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D29900.36429A70

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

I request an internal review of this decision.

I am greatly concerned that a charge was assessed even though the documents were likely to be exempt under section 34 of the FOI Act.

Given that there were only 13 documents, I would expect that the Department should have known when determining the charges that all but one of them were documents "prepared for and submitted to Cabinet or documents prepared for the purpose of briefing a Minister on a document to be submitted to Cabinet" when originally assessing my request.

To have not known this at the time suggests that the Department's record system is not of a high quality. Surely documents prepared for the purposes you have relied on in the s34 exemption would be readily identifiable?

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please see attached correspondence in relation to your request for
internal review.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services
Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D286D9.F238A730

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

 

 

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please see attached correspondence in relation to your Freedom of
Information request.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services
Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D286D9.F238A730

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

 

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