Copy of Multical Entitlement and Debt Calculator

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 a copy of the Multical Entitlement and Debt Calculator, which I believe is a Microsoft Excel workbook.

I request an electronic copy of the Excel file itself, not a printout, delivered via email. If electronic delivery via email is not possible for some reason, I can supply a secure upload facility where it can be uploaded via a browser.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

Link to this

Posty left an annotation ()

Thankfully there's an overview for using the Multical tool available on the DHS operational portal:

http://operational.humanservices.gov.au/...

may be worth asking for the users guide afterwards to understand how it's meant to be used?

http://operational.humanservices.gov.au/...

Link to this

From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment image001.png
8K Download

Attachment LEX 30445 Acknowledgement Letter.pdf
36K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached acknowledgement of your FOI request.

 

Kind regards

 

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

Email: [1][email address]

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

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment image001.png
12K Download

Attachment LEX 30445 WARREN Justin Right To Know Preliminary notice of charg....pdf
148K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request for
documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

 

Regards,

 

Jessica

Authorised FOI Decision-Maker
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.

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Jessica,

Thank you for your letter of 12 July 2017.

I note that the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) s20 (2) states that:

"Subject to subsection (3) and to section 22, where the applicant has requested access in a particular form, access shall be given in that form."

I have asked for access in a particular form: "an electronic copy of the Excel file" not of a printout of the spreadsheet as a PDF.

The macros and calculations embedded in the Excel file are a central part of the information I have requested, and cannot be supplied merely by printing out what appears on the screen. You are incorrect in your assertion that the PDF you have located fits the scope of my request. It does not.

Please reconsider your response.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

Link to this

From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Mr Warren,

 

The department disagrees with your view. In accordance with section 29 of
the Freedom of Information Act 1982, a charge is payable in relation to
your request as previously advised.

 

Regards,

 

Jessica

Authorised FOI Decision-Maker

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

Email: [email address]

 

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.

 

show quoted sections

Link to this

Mark R. Diamond left an annotation ()

Rather than arguing about charges, you might instead tell the department that the thing they have found (i.e. a PDF) is not the document that you are requesting and that you are seeking an Excel workbook. This distinguishes "form" of the document (which I think is a mistaken notion in this instance) from a particular document. In my view, they have located a document that has some of the appearance of the document you want but is not in fact the correct document. If the department doesn't actually have, or can't find the Excel spreadsheet, you probably don't want the PDF! So, if you make it clear that the located PDF is not what you're seeking, then they will have to conduct futrher searches and either find the document you want, or refuse your request on the grounds of what I think is s 24A--Requests may be refused if documents cannot be found, do not exist or have not been received.

Given that they should report how many documents they have found that fit the scope of your request, my guess is that they can't locate the Excel spreadsheet. If you have information about the time-period in which the spreadsheet was created, then you might ask them to search (using the date restriction) on their TRIM system.

Link to this

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

I contend that the charges have been both wrongly assessed and should not be imposed because they deal with the incorrect document.

The document the Department has identified does not match the scope of my request.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

Link to this

From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Mr Warren

I refer to your email of 19 July 2017 requesting reconsideration of the preliminary assessment of charges in LEX 30445.

You can expect a decision from us by 21 August 2017.

Regards

Jack
FOI Legal Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services
[email address]

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.

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment image001.png
12K Download

Attachment LEX 30445 Reconsideration Charges reconsideration.pdf
401K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your Freedom of
Information request (LEX 30445).

 

Regards

 

Jack

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

* [1][email address]

 

[2]Description: Description: Description: Description: Description:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description:
Description: cid:image001.png@01CD1993.20C1C870

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.

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Human Services's handling of my FOI request 'Copy of Multical Entitlement and Debt Calculator'.

I assert that the scope of my request was incorrectly assessed at the outset. I very clearly requested “an electronic copy of the Excel file itself.”

As I noted in my email on 13 July 2017, s 20 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) states that “Subject to subsection (3) and to section 22, where the applicant has requested access in a particular form, access shall be given in that form.”

In the Department’s letter on 12 July providing a preliminary assessment of the charge, the Department has incorrectly asserted that it “located a PDF version of a document (totalling 1 page) that fits the scope of your FOI request.” A PDF document is not an Excel workbook. This is neither the document I requested, nor is it in the particular form I requested.

I informed the Department of my view in my email of 13 July 2017, stating:

“The macros and calculations embedded in the Excel file are a central part of the information I have requested, and cannot be supplied merely by printing out what appears on the screen. You are incorrect in your assertion that the PDF you have located fits the scope of my request. It does not.”

The Department simply asserted that it disagreed with my view in its email of 13 July 2017, stating:

“The department disagrees with your view. In accordance with section 29 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, a charge is payable in relation to your request as previously advised.”

The Department did not, at that time, refuse access to the document I requested under s 20 (3) of the FOI Act or s 22 of the FOI Act, as required by s 20 (2) of the FOI Act.

I therefore asserted that the charges have been wrongly assessed, as they deal with the wrong document. Charges have been assessed for access to a document I did not request.

In the Department’s letter on 18 August 2017 regarding its reconsideration of the charges it, somewhat bizarrely, chose to refuse to reduce the charges on public interest grounds, asserting that

“While I accept that the department’s management of compliance and debt-related issues has attracted significant media attention, consideration of the public interest is not primarily concerned with curiosity or commentary.”

This is despite the specific wording of s 3 (2) of the FOI Act stating that:

“ (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.”

Discussion and commentary is specifically mentioned as one of the objects of the FOI Act.

The Department has then turned its attention, at long last, to s 20 of the FOI Act.

The Department asserted that

“Freedom of Information guidelines issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner are silent on the subject of section 20 of the FOI Act.”

I draw the Department’s attention to paragraphs 3.177 and 3.178 of the Freedom of Information guidelines issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (the FOI Guidelines) at this handy URL https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor... which I managed to locate after approximately 17 seconds of searching. These FOI Guidelines clearly state that the exceptions available under s 20 of the FOI Act are limited.

The Department has, at this late stage of proceedings, decided that it will now refuse access to the document in the form I have requested, citing s 20(3)(a) of the FOI Act, that “access to the document in the form requested would interfere unreasonably with the operations of the agency.”

Oddly, the Department then moves into a discussion of guidelines issued by the Attorney-General’s Department (the AGD Guidelines), specifically paragraph 3.58. The Department quotes from sections of this paragraph, but I find the full context to be more illuminating, and have reproduced it below:

“3.58 Security and privacy issues relating to information stored as metadata held within Microsoft Office documents have been identified. Usually an agency will not intend to provide access to a document with information that has been designated as ‘hidden’ (eg personal details of authors, revision history, review comments) or information that allows collaboration on writing and editing the document. Therefore, it is preferable that all Microsoft Office documents are converted into PDF format, or have their metadata cleansed using an agency approved process, prior to being sent outside the agency network.”

This paragraph concerns itself with ‘hidden’ data, as partially enumerated: "personal details of authors, revision history, review comments". While the Department notes that conversion to a PDF is one method suggested in the AGD Guidelines, having the metadata cleansed is also an option provided. The FOI Act handily provides a mechanism that allows for removing these kinds of details via s 22 that is explicitly referred to in s 20 (2) of the FOI Act, yet the Department has chosen not to avail itself of this mechanism.

The Department has then asserted that “information that allows collaboration on writing and editing the document” is somehow analogous to Excel formulas and that these formulas should therefore be cleansed from the document before release. This assertion is nonsensical. The formulas in a spreadsheet are an inherent part of using a spreadsheet, which the Department tangentially admits when it refers to them as “operationally specific details”. The formulas are not metadata or ‘hidden’ data that would raise privacy or security issues of the kind that paragraph 3.58 is discussing.

The Department then asserts that providing access to the Excel spreadsheet “in editable form” would lead to a rush of people asking the Department how to use the tool. The scenario envisaged by the Department, while entertaining, is not reasonable to expect.

While the department has not chosen to assert that the document, or parts of it, are conditionally exempt under s 11A(5) of the FOI Act, s 11B(4) of the FOI Act discusses factors that are irrelevant “for the purposes of working out whether access to a conditionally exempt document would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest under subsection 11A(5)”, i.e.:

“(4) The following factors must not be taken into account in deciding whether access to the document would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest:
(a) access to the document could result in embarrassment to the Commonwealth Government, or cause a loss of confidence in the Commonwealth Government;
(b) access to the document could result in any person misinterpreting or misunderstanding the document;
(c) the author of the document was (or is) of high seniority in the agency to which the request for access to the document was made;
(d) access to the document could result in confusion or unnecessary debate.

The Department’s assertions that people might misinterpret or misunderstand the document, or become confused, would be deemed irrelevant if the Department were attempting to refuse access to the document as contrary to the public interest. While the Department is not explicitly attempting to do so under s 11A(5) of the FOI Act here, the argument made by the Department is analogous, and therefore incorrect.

The Department further suggests that all customer service staff might need to become trained in the use of the Multical tool. The Department did not choose to train all customer service staff in the details of the Online Compliance Intervention program, instead choosing to train certain “specialist compliance staff” to whom customers could be referred via a particular phone number. If this level of training was adequate for the very heavily publicised OCI program, then it is difficult to see how a higher level of training would be required for the theoretical (at this stage) case of the Multical spreadsheet becoming publicly available.

The other form of this fantastical scenario that the Department has described so vividly is that customers will be clamouring for the Department’s assistance to understand how their debts have been calculated by the tool. May I be so bold as to suggest that helping customers might form part of the duties of staff employed at the Department of Human Services?

The Department implies that Subject Matter Experts will be inundated with requests from customer service staff rushing to assist customers, with exuberant helpfulness that appears unprecedented, on how to correctly use the Multical tool. It astounds me that getting access to a single Excel workbook and asking for help in using it from frontline staff can override all existing policies and procedures the Department has. I wonder why nobody has thought of using this tactic before? Is this override ability limited to the Multical spreadsheet, or will any old spreadsheet do? Can I ask Centrelink customer service to assist me to use any other documents obtained via FOI?

The Department then asserts that the formulas contained with the Multical tool are “sensitive information”. As already discussed, paragraph 3.58 of the AGD Guidelines deals with metadata and hidden data that is incidental to the content of the document and could readily be dealt with using the existing mechanisms within, e.g. s 22 of the FOI Act. The formulas are part of the content of the document. I’m sure the Attorney-General’s department will be only too happy to explain what metadata is to you.

Finally, the Department’s assertion that “the document proposed for processing is within the scope of your request and you remain liable to pay the charge for access to the PDF” is incorrect. The Department is now, as of this letter, refusing access to the document in the form I requested and is attempting to provide access in another form under s 20(3)(a), albeit incorrectly.

Go back to the beginning and try again.

I will also be raising a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner about the handling of this request, as well as an external review of the decisions made by the Department thus far.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

Link to this

From: The Department of Human Services
Department of Human Services

You have received a secure email from the Department of Human Services.

Please select the link below to view the email.
Please note, you may have to register for this service

https://securemail.humanservices.gov.au/...

Please copy and paste the URL into your browser. If you encounter any issues, please close and reopen your browser before navigating to the URL again.

Link to this

Department of Human Services

Your account with a new passphrase has been successfully set.

You can access your account by clicking on the following URL:

https://securemail.humanservices.gov.au/...

Please copy and paste the URL into your browser. If you encounter any issues, please close and reopen your browser before navigating to the URL again.

Link to this

Bill Tarte left an annotation ()

Seems like they have sent something higher than unclassified to you.

Link to this

Justin Warren left an annotation ()

This securemail is just registration of the Internal review. I've put the PDF here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3hu_c...

Link to this

From: 'Justin Warren'

Why did you sent his via securemail.humanservices.gov.au? You're replying to a request for an Internal review on an FOI request.

It looks like you're trying to hide something.

show quoted sections

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request for an internal review of LEX 30445.

Regards

Elizabeth
Authorised FOI Decision-Maker
FOI Legal Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services
Email: [email address]<mailto:[email address]>

[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.

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment image001.png
12K Download

Attachment LEX 31631 Internal Review Decision Charges Decision.pdf
404K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request for an
internal review of charges imposed under the Freedom of Information Act
1982.

 

Regards

 

Elizabeth

Authorised FOI Decision-Maker
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.

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

Verity Pane left an annotation ()

This series of decisions by DHS deserves absolute criticism -

Section 29(4) of the Freedom of Information Act provides agencies a discretion to reduce or not to impose a charge, which DHS should have absolutely done without forcing formal review, given the amount sought (less than $15) is well below the threshold the Australian Information Commissioner has repeated assessed as below the cost of calculating and collecting a such charge, and exceeding the cost to the agency of processing the request, as the agency was able to identify and retrieve the document easily and at marginal cost.

Section 29(5) of the Freedom of Information Act states that an agency, in deciding whether to waive or reduce a charge, can take into account matters other than financial hardship and the public interest in disclosure. It’s not just limited to those two factors.

Section 29(5)(b) of the Act requires an agency or minister to consider ‘whether the giving of access to the document in question is in the general public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public’.

It’s as if DHS just haven’t bothered reading the s 93A Guidelines, which also explicitly state:
4.3 A charge must not be used to discourage an applicant from exercising the right of access conferred by the FOI Act. Rather, charges should fairly reflect the work involved in providing access to documents on request. Implicit in the lowest reasonable cost objective is a prerequisite for sound record keeping so that an agency’s documents can be readily identified and found when an FOI request is received.

4.4 A decision to impose a charge should be transparent. An agency should ensure that the notice to an applicant of a charge fully explains and justifies that charge. This can avoid a later dispute over the imposition or amount of a charge.

Charges are discretionary

4.9 Agencies and ministers have a discretion:

• not to impose a charge for the staff time and resources expended in processing an FOI request (reg 3), independently of any request from an applicant requesting that a charge be reduced or waived

• to impose a lower charge than the charge specified in the Charges Regulations (reg 3)

• to reduce or waive a charge upon receiving a request from the applicant (s 29(4))

4.10 In applying the Schedule to the Charges Regulations, agencies and ministers should bear in mind that the Schedule was first written in 1982, and that some specific chargeable activities may be outmoded. For example, the use of agency computers to produce copies of electronic documents is nowadays usually a negligible expense.

Simply put, you don’t seek charges of nominal amounts, for discrete documents, that the agency clearly had ready access to.

Link to this

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

You state in your letter that "the form of access to this document is a matter for the substantive decision for your FOI request which has not yet been settled." yet you have affirmed that the charges assessed are correct.

I do not see how you can arrive at the view "that the amount of $14.55 is reasonable and represents the lowest possible cost for the department to process your request" if the form of access to the document has not yet been settled.

You appear to have assessed a charge for a document that may not be the one you actually provide. It is certainly not the form that I requested, which, as I have explained on multiple occasions and at length, is critically important.

I applaud your masterful use of satire. I would find it difficult to construct a more absurd example of bureaucratic incompetence than what DHS has managed to achieve in its response to this FOI request. It will certainly serve as a far more powerful example of how DHS is an arrogant and out-of-touch institution by virtue of coming from DHS itself, rather than being something made up.

Thank you for your tireless efforts to sabotage the reputation of DHS. I understand how the thrill of rebellion can make an otherwise intolerable existence less painful. I hope your efforts are successful in helping me to rally support for a major overhaul of DHS' administration, and that you will be freed from the work that you clearly hate so much.

Yours in solidarity,

Justin Warren

Link to this

Verity Pane left an annotation ()

Where access is requested in a particular form, the agency is generally obliged to do so, expect in limited circumstances.

You may find the below extracts of the s 93A Guidelines of assistance:

3.181 An applicant can seek internal or IC review of a decision not to provide access in the form requested by the applicant (s 53A).

Form of access

3.177 Subject to limited exceptions, an applicant who requests access to a document in a particular form has a right to be given access in that form (s 20(2)). Available forms of access are:

• providing a copy of the document (the most common form of access)

3.178 The right to access a document in a particular form may be refused and access given in another form in the following circumstances:

• where access would interfere unreasonably with the agency’s operations or the performance of a minister’s functions (s 20(3)(a)) — for example, if an applicant asks to inspect documents that an agency requires for everyday operations

• if giving an applicant access to a document in a certain form would, but for the FOI Act, involve an infringement of copyright in relation to the matter contained in the document (s 20(3)(c)). This provision does not apply where the matter contained in the document relates to the affairs of an agency or department of state or if the copyright holder is the Commonwealth, an agency, Norfolk Island or a State.

3.179 Agencies and ministers are expected to make reasonable use of available technology to facilitate access to documents — for example, by providing copies by electronic transmission, or to provide access in a particular form that is possible only through technology. Access to documents by means that do not require physical inspection in an agency office should generally be preferred.

Charge for access in an alternative form

4.43 An applicant who requests access in a particular form is entitled to receive it in that form, unless one of the exceptions in s 20(3) applies (see Part 3 of these Guidelines). If an alternative form of access is given, a higher charge cannot be imposed than if access had been given in the form requested by the applicant (s 20(4)).

Link to this

From: The Department of Human Services
Department of Human Services

Your The Department of Human Services secure email account is about to expire.

This message is for information only and no action is required on your behalf. If secure email is sent to this account in the future, a new account will be created if necessary.

If you want to keep the account active, you must access your account by clicking on the following URL:

https://securemail.humanservices.gov.au/...

Please copy and paste the URL into your browser. If you encounter any issues, please close and reopen your browser before navigating to the URL again.

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Human Services only: