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Disclosures of Interests from the Entrepreneurs' Programme Committee meeting held on 11/12/2019

Witherspoon made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

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From: Witherspoon

Delivered

Dear FOI Team,

I would like to see each disclosure of interests from the Entrepreneurs' Programme Committee meeting held on 11 December 2019 at Darling Park Tower 3, Level 18, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney.

For each disclosure, please leave unredacted:
- the discloser (at the very least the department position/role of the discloser), and
- the reference number of the application to which the disclosure pertains.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Witherspoon

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From: Freedom of Information
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science


Attachment CM Freedom of Information request Disclosures of Interests from the Entrepreneurs Programme Committee meeting held on 11 12 2019.txt
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Dear Harry

 

We acknowledge receipt of the attached Freedom of Information request.

 

Your request was received by the Department of Industry, Innovation and
Science (the department) on 10 August 2020.

 

Your request will be processed in accordance with the FOI Act.

 

The department will notify you of any charges or of a decision as soon as
practicable.

 

If you have any questions, please contact the FOI team.

 

Regards

 

FOI Team

Legal, Audit and Assurance | Corporate & Digital

GPO Box 2013, Canberra ACT 2601

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From: Freedom of Information
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science


Attachment LEX 66782 Disclosure 11 Dec 2019 AR Part Release.pdf
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Attachment LEX 66782 FOI Notice of Decision.pdf
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Harry,

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your FOI request of 10
August 2020.

 

 

FOI Team

Legal, Audit and Assurance | Corporate & Digital

GPO Box 2013, Canberra ACT 2601

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From: Witherspoon

Delivered

Dear Leonie,

I made this FOI request because I suspect that [Name Removed at the request of the Department] had disclosed a conflict of interests in relation to MassChallenge at the EPC meeting. If [Name Removed at the request of the Department] did not declare any interests at the EPC meeting, please advise accordingly and I will withdraw this request.

As part of my request, I asked that the position of each discloser (as per minutes in FOI 66406, e.g. ‘RIF - SA, VIC, WA, TAS’) and the reference number of the ISI application to which their disclosure pertains also be included. These details do not reveal any personal or business information and I trust you will be able to release the details upon receipt of this correspondence.

Further, I also asked to see the disclosures. Given the number of declarations in the document you have provided, I am happy to limit my request to [Name Removed at the request of the Department]’s declarations (and determinations) alone.

Please note that this is a matter of significant public interest and that [Name Removed at the request of the Department]’s regional incubator facilitator (RIF) extracurricular engagements are public knowledge as outlined below.

In your consideration please take into account the following information that I was provided, as it appears that:
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] was engaged by your department in public office capacity through [Name Removed at the request of the Department] (see [1]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] was engaged by department tender that included notice that expressly prohibited any outside activity for (or promotion of) an incubator business during RIF service (see [2]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] had signed a RIF contract that expressly prohibits harbouring of conflicts of interests (see [3]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] had since publicised his country manager role and activities for MassChallenge (see [16]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] failed to have corrected the department’s ISI program webpage that misrepresented his involvement with MassChallenge as past experience (see [4]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] is noted by your department not to have disclosed interests that apply to MassChallenge on his statutory declaration as well as follow-up declarations of interests as urged by your department in April and June of 2018 (see [5]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] had express notice that providing misleading information to a Commonwealth agency may constitute a criminal offence (see [6]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] engaged in other extracurricular activity without providing prior notice to the department and this was tolerated by department officers (see [7]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] travelled to Boston to tend to MassChallenge duties during the time period of the RIF contract (see [8]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] noted in an email to a department colleague that he is travelling to Boston in June 2018 yet the department was unable to provide any evidence of a formal (written) leave request and approval in accordance with contractual provisions (see [9]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] was under obligation to submit a monthly activity report to the department including any absences yet the department was unable to provide this report for the month of June 2018 (see [10]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] colluded with department officers in making arrangements to be able to send department emails by private channels whilst in Boston in order to circumvent express instruction to refrain from accessing department emails whilst overseas (see [11]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] also benefited from the department’s funding of (and lobbying for) MassChallenge operations in Australia (see [12]),
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] provided defective advice that is contrary to ISI program guidelines regarding an ISI grant application of a MassChallenge competitor (see [13]), and
- [Name Removed at the request of the Department] publicly severed formal ties with MassChallenge nearly 12 months after providing this defective advice and merely days prior to the competitor’s formal submission of an ISI grant proposal (see [14]); the competitor was advised that the proposal had been disqualified in line with [Name Removed at the request of the Department]’s defective advice with less than 48 hours to the EPC meeting.

For these reasons, including the fact that your department noted to be managing 22 FOI applications relating to this issue (see [15]), it is a matter of significant public interest that [Name Removed at the request of the Department]’s declarations at this meeting be disclosed in full.

Finally, I urge you to continue to stay true to APS values and take inspiration from the admirable conduct of Claire Forsyth and the FOI team in their handling of FOI 66441. As you are aware, the purpose of declarations of interests is to preserve public confidence in government administration. If the department is unwilling to release [Name Removed at the request of the Department]’s declarations under these circumstances, please advise accordingly at your earliest convenience such that I can seek OAIC intervention.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Witherspoon

REFERENCES

[1] https://www.tenders.gov.au/Cn/Show/8cb79...

[2] Question 2 of Addendum 6 of RFT No. PRI00003859 as per AusTender

[3] Section 21.1 of the contract in Document 3 in FOI 66441

[4] https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/201903...

[5] Documents 1, 9 & 10 in FOI 66441 and FOI team correspondence with the FOI applicant

[6] Section 30.1 of the contract in Document 3 in FOI 66441

[7] Section 21.1(d) of contract in Document 3 in FOI 66441 and Documents 5,6,7 & 8 in FOI 66441

[8] Video: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=219909...

[9] Section 10.4 of contract in Document 3 in FOI 66441, Document 9 in FOI 66441 and correspondence with FOI applicant

[10] Sections 8.2 & 10.4(b) of contract in Document 3 in FOI 66441 and FOI team correspondence with the FOI applicant

[11] Document 9 in FOI 66441

[12] Item 299 in https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/201708...

[13] Feedback on draft ISI proposal (ref no.: HR7N6RLY & 56SR7QPF) and ISI grant guidelines (2017)

[14] [Name Removed at the request of the Department] noted his MassChallenge departure in October 2019 ([URL Removed by Right to Know]) with full awareness of the competitor’s 31 October 2019 proposal due date for EPC meeting deliberation.

[15] https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/f...

[16] Public information pertinent to [Name Removed at the request of the Department]’s activities for MassChallenge during his RIF engagement:
- [URL Removed by Right to Know]
- [URL Removed by Right to Know])
- [URL Removed by Right to Know]
- [Partial URL Removed by Right to Know]/posts/1895693610489290
- [Partial URL Removed by Right to Know]/posts/2248313218560659
- [Partial URL Removed by Right to Know]/posts/2269141613144486
...

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Ben Fairless left an annotation ()

Right to Know has been contacted by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources in relation to this request.

We have hidden the names of a public servant and a company at the request of the Department.

We feel that it's appropriate for the contents of the request to remain, however have agreed with the Department to hide the names in question.

Any questions in relation to this should be directed to contact@righttoknow.org.au.

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From: Witherspoon

Delivered

Dear Freedom of Information,

I am writing to request a decision review and to file a formal complaint.

- Decision review

I am requesting a decision review pursuant to s. 54 of the FOI Act in relation to FOI 66782.

Please note that RIF incubator business activity is purportedly forbidden by the department [3] yet is a matter of public record [4] and subject of considerable public interest [5].

Further, no sensitive information is revealed by disclosing positions/regions of RIFs making DOIs or internal (ISI) reference numbers of applications to which disclosures pertain.

- Complaint

This complaint is not intended as a criticism of the department’s FOI staff. I am concerned with the conduct and influence of AusIndustry line management.

The department decided to redact FOI 66782 RIF disclosures for business and privacy reasons [1-2] despite ample public record [4] and interest [5]. Information without identifying features was also withheld [6].

The department also claimed that its FOI 66692 decision was ‘made within the statutory timeframes’ [7] while in breach of ss. 15(5)(a) & 15(5)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act [8-9].

Most alarmingly, I have received notice from Right to Know that the department sought to censor FOI requests on the Right to Know website. While some details were redacted, to Right to Know's credit, the FOI requests were left in place [10].

I have considered all statements made, and I believe the department is resorting to frivolous claims to strongarm Right to Know into submission and achieve blanket suppression of public ISI FOI requests. Any alleged inaccuracies could have easily been addressed via direct private messaging facilities with individual applicants or by simply replying to requests.

I would like to gain clarity around the following matters:
a) Is it the department’s position that FOI 66782 correspondence [10] contains false statements, and if so, which statements does the department contend?
b) Why did the department demand from Right to Know to censor ISI FOI requests indiscriminately, instead of addressing individual applicants via private messaging facilities on the Right to Know website or by replying to requests?
c) Why did the department claim that FOI 66692 was handled legally [cf. 7-9]?
d) Why was FOI 66692 not handled within the legislated timeframe [7-9]?
e) Why did the department claim that I did not reduce or ‘introduce any limiting factors’ to FOI 66692 item 1, when I did so with clear emphasis [11]?
f) Why did the department decline to provide positions (regions) [6] of RIFs declaring interests in FOI 66782 documents?

Answers to these questions will help me decide whether to escalate the matter to relevant authorities. Department comments should be provided in response to this correspondence.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Witherspoon

REFERENCES

[1] Censored RIF DOIs - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/6...

[2] Decision to censor RIF DOIs due to privacy and business concerns - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/6...

[3] Tender clarification whereby incubator promotion, services and conflicts are expressly forbidden - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/q...

[4] List of RIF public incubator service offerings - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/e...

[5] According to the department there were 22 applications in relation to ISI in August - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/f...

[6] Request for position/role of disclosers and internal application reference numbers - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

[7] Quote ‘decision was made within the statutory timeframes’ - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/t...

[8] Section 24AB(8) of the FOI Act - ‘The period starting on the day an applicant is given a notice under subsection (2) and ending on the day the applicant does one of the things mentioned in paragraph (6)(b) or (c) is to be disregarded in working out the 30 day period mentioned in paragraph 15(5)(b)’.

[9] Appropriate application of s. 24AB(8) of the Act by ASIC under ‘Timeframe’ - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5...

[10] Public notice by Right to Know - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...
Statements made -
https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

[11] Amendment of FOI 66692 item 1 - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/t...

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From: Freedom of Information
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Harry,

 

I confirm receipt of your internal review request received 14 September
2020.

 

A different decision maker will be appointed for your FOI matter.

 

The current due date for the internal review decision is on or before 13
October 2020.

 

Regards

 

 

FOI Team

Legal, Audit and Assurance | Corporate & Digital

GPO Box 2013, Canberra ACT 2601

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