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Dept of Home Affairs - Non Compliance with FOI legislation Disclosure Log

JS made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Home Affairs

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From: JS

Delivered

Dear Department of Home Affairs,

The FOI Act requires agencies to publish information in a disclosure log within 10 working days after the freedom of information (FOI) applicant was 'given access' to a document. The public expect that Commonwealth Agencies will respect and comply with Commonwealth Law.

The Department of Home Affairs updates its disclosure log every few months resulting in many entries being outside the 10-working day limit set out in the FOI legislation. Non-compliance appears to be built into the system. For example, each of the 37 new entries published in the log on or about 18 October (i.e. entries with date of access from 23 August 2019 (FA19/05/01692) to 24 Sept 2019 (FA 10/07/01089) were published outside the 10-day requirements of the FOI legislation.

That is the Department did not comply with the law on 37 occasions. Once documents are uploaded to the disclosure log one cannot discern that the Department has failed to comply with the 10- day publishing requirement. The publication of required information in the disclosure log without acknowledgment by an agency that is has not complied with the FOI law might be regarded as a sneaky and cute practice inconsistent with the requirement to behave honestly and with integrity.

Under FOI I seek access to a document that sets out the following information for each entry in the Disclosure log from 1 Jan 2018 to date of this request for access:

(a) Date document(s) provided to FOI Applicant
(b) Reference No
(c) Title
(d) Date information about each release was published in the disclosure log as required by law.

The requested information should be readily available in the Department’s computerised records. At Senate Estimates on 21 Oct the Secretary, Mike Pezzullo, noted that there are mandatory steps under the legislation that obviously have to be adhered to. That being the case it is highly likely that the Department records the publication date so as to ensure compliance with the FOI legislation. At Senate hearings on 15 November 2019 the following exchange took place:

Senator URQUHART: Do you make a point of being regularly briefed on the issues around the performance of the department under freedom of information or is it only in relation to when you have a hearing or Senate estimates?
Mr Pezzullo : Both, and they're somewhat connected because estimates is regular enough that it's a great checkpoint in which to update yourself on management performance. In any event, separately we have management dashboards and other reports available.

Yours faithfully,

JS

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From: FOI
Department of Home Affairs

UNCLASSIFIED

In reply please quote:
FOI Request: FA 19/12/00430
File Number: OBJ2019/61396

Dear J S,
Acknowledgement of Freedom of Information Access request

I refer to your correspondence received on 03 December 2019 seeking access to documents held by the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act).

You have requested access to the following:

a document that sets out the following information for each entry in the Disclosure log from 1 Jan 2018 to date of this request for access:

(a) Date document(s) provided to FOI Applicant
(b) Reference No
(c) Title
(d) Date information about each release was published in the disclosure log as required by law.

Your request was received by the Department on 03 December 2019 and has been allocated FOI request number FA 19/12/00430. Please include your FOI request number in all correspondence with the Freedom of Information Section.

Timeframe for receiving your decision
The statutory timeframe for processing a request is 30 days from the date upon which your application was received by the Department.

Information regarding your review rights in relation to your request, including processing timeframes are available at the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor...

Exclusion of staff details
The Department’s policy is to exclude the personal details of staff not in the Senior Executive Service (SES), as well as the direct contact details of SES staff, contained in documents that fall within scope of an FOI request. If you require personal details of non-SES officers, or direct contact details of SES staff, please inform us so the decision maker may consider your request. Otherwise we will take it that you agree to that information being excluded from the scope of your request.

Duplicate documents
If the FOI decision-maker deems a document to be a duplicate, they will not assess those pages as part of your FOI request. This means that if a there is a decision to release the document to you, you will receive only one copy, even if multiple copies of that document exists.

Publication of document
Where documents are released to you in response to your request, the Department may be required to publish these documents on its website within 10 working days in accordance with section 11C of the FOI Act. Publication will not be required where the documents contain personal or business affairs information.

Contacting the FOI Section
Should you wish to discuss your request you may contact the FOI Section at [DIBP request email].

Yours sincerely,

FOI Officer
Freedom of Information National Office
Freedom of Information, Privacy and Records Management Branch
Data Division | Corporate and Enabling Group
Department of Home Affairs
Email: [DIBP request email]

UNCLASSIFIED

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