Decision making criteria for potentially FOI exempt operational documents

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 any documents that define how a decision is, or was, made to replace a document on the department's operational information website (those hosted on http://operational.humanservices.gov.au/) with a statement of the form:

"The guideline you have requested is potentially FOI exempt.

You have a right to apply for the document through FOI legislation.

You can request a copy from the department's Information Publication Scheme by:

…" etc.

I request only final versions of these documents, not draft versions.

I request that the documents be provided in electronic form.

I am available to discuss this request via the telephone if you provide me with a number to call.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX34896 Consultation and Acknowledgement Final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence relating to your request for access to
information held by the Department of Human Services, under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Ashleigh

Freedom of Information and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

Email [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D15CE0.EE682F50

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 Ashleigh,

Thank you for your letter of 16 Feb 2018.

I require your assistance to avoid a practical refusal reason continuing to exist in my revised request.

I am happy to discuss the matter via telephone, as I mentioned in my request. Without further details, I am unlikely to be able to guess at a reasonable scope that will fulfil the spirit of my request and avoid a practical refusal reason existing. It is not in my interest to request a scope that the department can simply refuse.

I do not require correspondence, email or otherwise, discussing how to determine which documents to replace with the "possibly FOI exempt" boilerplate text. I am only requesting the formal procedure used to determine if a document that would otherwise have been published on the operational.humanservices.gov.au website to be replaced with this boilerplate text.

If different procedures have been used over time, then I request the documented procedure that was used at the time a website document was replaced with the "possibly FOI exempt" boilerplate, but only if that website document continues to be in that redacted form as at the date of my request. If the website document is no longer redacted, then I am unconcerned with if it was redacted at some point in the past or the procedure used for its redaction.

My intuition is that there would only be a need for one such documented procedure, or perhaps as many as 6, but I have been wrong before about how the department conducts its affairs. I don't know the processes the department uses to determine which documents to redact in this manner; that is the point of this FOI request.

The onus is on the department to provide me with reasonable assistance in understanding how best to ask for the information I am seeking, given this information asymmetry. I am perfectly willing to work collaboratively with you in order to determine a practical scope for my request.

All I require from you is a departmental number I can call, or instructions for the main switchboard on how to transfer my call to you. I will also be forwarding my personal contact details to you, via a separate email, so that you can have confidence that your contact phone number is not in any immediate danger of being published.

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 correspondence.

 

In your email correspondence received 16 February 2018, you sought to
clarify your request by stating:

 

'I am only requesting the formal procedure used to determine if a document
that would otherwise have been published on the   
operational.humanservices.gov.au website to be replaced with this
boilerplate text.

 

If different procedures have been used over time, then I request the
documented procedure that was used at the time a website document was
replaced with the "possibly FOI exempt" boilerplate, but only if that
website document continues to be in that redacted form as at the date of
my request. If the website document is no longer redacted, then I am
unconcerned with if it was redacted at some point in the past or the
procedure used for its redaction.'

 

However, noting that you have also requested additional assistance, you
may wish to consider:

 

·         Whether you seek access to formal documented procedures applied
by a certain business area in relation to a specific Operational Blueprint
file or files (please refer to the department’s Organisational Chart here
for guidance -
[1]https://www.humanservices.gov.au/organis...
and

·         Limiting the scope of your request to be for a specific
timeframe, particularly given that an extensive number of Operational
Blueprint files may be within scope of your request, noting that these
files are regularly updated.

 

You may wish to consider the above as there may be manifest voluminosity
associated with the search, retrieval and processing of your request,
given the department may be required to cross-reference all Operational
Blueprint files that fall within scope of your request in order to
identify the documents you seek access to.

 

I note that the consultation period in relation to this request will end
on 2 March 2018. Please confirm the scope of your revised request.

 

Kind Regards

 

Ashleigh

Freedom of Information and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

Email [2][email address]

[3]cid:image001.png@01D15CE0.EE682F50

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 Ashley,

You seem to be implying that there are a multitude of procedures to determine if a document was to be declared "potentially FOI exempt". This is surprising. Are you able to provide me with an order of magnitude estimate of how many procedures there are?

Regardless, I alter the scope of my request to be for the first 63 procedures used in reverse chronological order from the date of my request (i.e. going backwards in time from the date of my request), or fewer if less than 63 procedures have been used.

Regarding the "manifest voluminosity" of the number of documents redacted, I note that the FOI Guidelines state, at [3.115] that "Poor record keeping or an inefficient filing system would not of themselves provide grounds for a claim that processing the request would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources."

The department has a search system built into its website that can readily identify a list of documents that have been redacted. Alternately, I am able to provide the department with a list that I have made containing the URL of 10,895 documents that have been redacted. The script to perform the search took less than 10 minutes for me to write, and runs to completion in 1 minute and 48 seconds.

I remain willing to discuss this matter over the telephone, as soon as you supply me with a number to call.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Mr Warren

Thank you for your email.

I note that in the correspondence below, dated 26 February 2018, you have revised the scope of your request as follows:

'I alter the scope of my request to be for the first 63 procedures used in reverse chronological order from the date of my request (i.e. going backwards in time from the date of my request), or fewer if less than 63 procedures have been used.'

The department will now recommence processing your request and will provide you with a decision in response to this request by 26 March 2018.

Kind Regards,

Ashleigh
Freedom of Information 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.

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX34896 Decision Final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence relating to your request for access to
information held by the Department of Human Services, under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Ashleigh

Freedom of Information and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

Email [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D15CE0.EE682F50

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 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 'Decision making criteria for potentially FOI exempt operational documents'.

Firstly, the department has, once again, failed to take reasonable steps to assist me to revise the request so that the practical refusal reason no longer exists, as required by section 24AB of the FOI Act. The department could have sent another email advising me that my request would still likely be refused. The department could have provided the information I explicitly asked for in my email: "an order of magnitude estimate of how many procedures there are" but it did not.

Secondly, it appears that the department is being deliberately obtuse in its interpretation of the revised scope. It should be abundantly clear that I am asking for procedures used to make a determination of whether or not a document on the operational website should be marked FOI exempt or not. My expectation was that there would be fewer than 6, as I clearly said. Nevertheless, in attempting to guess at the inner workings of the department, I picked an arbitrary number of procedures (63) and requested a copy of up to this many procedures, based on when they were last used, going backwards in time from the date of my request.

If this was not sufficiently clear, then the department could readily have asked me to further clarify my request. It failed to do so, and also failed to provide further assistance to reduce the scope of my request to avoid a practical refusal reason. This implies that the department is deliberately seeking to frustrate FOI requests by being uncooperative with good faith efforts to use the FOI process. I cannot see an alternate explanation for the facts before me.

Thirdly, the department appears to be deliberately frustrating my attempts to speak to someone within the FOI department in order to clear up misunderstandings in a way that would minimise the amount of effort and time taken. The department has my phone number and could call it whenever they like. Similarly, I am happy to call a switchboard number that can be transferred to the department in order to speak to the contact person nominated for the consultation period. That the department continues to refuse to engage in this way indicates a deliberate refusal to fulfil its obligations under the Act.

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

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX35849 Acknowledgement Letter IR.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached acknowledgement of your request for internal review.

 

Kind regards

 

Alice

Authorised FOI Decision Maker

Freedom of Information and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

Email [1][email address]

 

[2]Image

 

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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Attachment LEX35849 Internal Review Decision Final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence relating to your request for internal
review of a decision on your request for access to documents held by the
Department of Human Services,  under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Alice

Freedom of Information and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

Email [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D15CE0.EE682F50

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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