Documents pertaining to recent explosion of debt recovery requests

Brendan Molloy made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Human Services

The request was refused by Department of Human Services.

From: Brendan Molloy

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

Recently there has been a public furore about the seemingly automated delivery of debt notices to persons receiving benefits from Centrelink programmes since early December, and perhaps earlier[1].

I hereby request, under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, copies of the following documents:

1) Technical reports or similar documents regarding known errors or probable risks from introducing the new "compliance system";
2) Documents outlining the data sources used in the new "compliance system";
3) Documents listing the number of debt recovery requests sent on a monthly basis (or similar) from January 2016 to the date of receipt of this request; and
4) An aggregate number of reported complaints from when the system was introduced relating to false or miscalculated debt recovery requests.

I also make the application that all costs for the processing of this request be waived on the grounds that the release of this information is in the public interest.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne...

Yours faithfully,

Brendan Molloy

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

The FOI team will be closed from 23 December 2016 until 2 January 2017
(inclusive). Applications lodged during that period will be considered
when we re-open on 3 January 2017.

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX 24850 Registration Acknowledgment letter.pdf
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Dear Mr Molloy

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your Freedom of
Information request (LEX 24850).

 

Regards

 

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

* [1][email address]

 

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This email is intended for the use of the addressee and may contain
information that is confidential, commercially valuable or subject to
Legal Professional Privilege. Privilege is not waived by the mistaken
delivery of this email. If you are not the intended recipient of this
email you are notified that any use of dissemination of this communication
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error
please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

 

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From: Brendan Molloy

Delivered

Dear FOI Legal Team,

s15AA of the Freedom of Information Act requires that the applicant agree in writing to the extension, which is at odds with the wording in your reply to my request which suggests that should I not reply, the extension will be implemented by default. This is a legally incorrect statement and you should correct your template for replies to any further FOI requests.

It does not seem fair to claim that due to a 6 day loss of time that the department requires an extra 15 days, particularly since this is a very pertinent issue to public discourse and across the media at this time.

I note that item 3.73 of the FOI guidelines states that "[t]he agency or minister can discuss with the applicant the scope of their request, particularly if a preliminary assessment indicates there may be a practical refusal reason or estimated charges may be high", and starts by saying "agencies and ministers’ offices are encouraged, as a matter of good administrative practice, to contact an applicant to discuss their request as soon as practicable after receiving the request"

I also note that s15(5A) of the Freedom of Information Act requires that the agency must "have regard to any guidelines issued by the Information Commissioner for the purposes of section 93A".

I would like to discuss as soon as possible whether or not the scope of my request is sufficient for processing and is not of too broad scope, as I am acting in good faith and have tried to keep the scope as narrow as possible but as I am not a public servant for your department, I do not have a full overview of its workings.

If an informal discussion over the phone regarding clarification of scope is amenable, please acknowledge so in a reply and I will provide my contact details in a private email and we can organise an appropriate time to discuss it.

Yours sincerely,

Brendan Molloy

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Mr Molloy

I refer to your email of 4 January 2016.

I have considered your email, and note that you appear to object to a 15 day extension of time under section 15AA of the FOI Act. In light of the loss of processing time over the Christmas and New Year period, the department is now seeking your agreement to a 7 day extension of time for the processing of your request. The FOI Team was closed between 23 December 2016 and 2 January 2017 inclusive, being 7 working days. Please respond to this email confirming your agreement to a 7 day extension of time under 15AA of the FOI Act.

The department is currently conducting preliminary searches on the basis of the scope outlined in your request of 28 December 2016. If the number of documents within scope give rise to a practical refusal reason, we will engage in formal consultation with you under section 24AB of the FOI Act, and you will have an opportunity to revise your request.

If you have any further questions, please contact us at the email below.

Regards

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

This email is intended for the use of the addressee and may contain information that is confidential, commercially valuable or subject to Legal Professional Privilege. Privilege is not waived by the mistaken delivery of this email. If you are not the intended recipient of this email you are notified that any use of dissemination of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

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From: Brendan Molloy

Delivered

Dear FOI Legal Team,

I do not agree to the proposed extension.

Yours sincerely,

Brendan Molloy

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From: Irene Nicolaou


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Our reference: RQ17/00279

Agency reference: LEX 24850

Mr Brendan Molloy

 

By email: [1][FOI #2887 email]

Dear Mr Molloy

Extension of time request under s15AB

On 9 January 2017, Department of Human Services (the Department) requested
further time to make a decision on your FOI request of 28 December 2016.

This request was on the basis that the processing period is insufficient
to deal adequately with your request, because it is complex or voluminous.

The Information Commissioner has decided to grant the Department an
extension of time to process your request to 11 February 2017. This
decision has been made under s15AB(2) of the Freedom of Information Act
1982 (Cth) (the FOI Act).

By granting further time it is anticipated that the Department will
provide a well-reasoned and better managed decision.

Contact

If you have any questions regarding this email, please contact me on 1300
363 992 or via email [email address]. Please quote OAIC
reference number RQ17/00279 in all correspondence.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Irene Nicolaou | Assistant Investigation and Review Officer | Freedom of
Information Dispute Resolution

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000

GPO Box 5128 SYDNEY NSW 2001| [2]www.oaic.gov.au

Phone:  1300 363 992 | E-mail: [3][email address]

 

Protecting information rights – advancing information policy

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX 24850 Consultation s24AB notice.pdf
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Dear Mr Molloy

 

Please find the attached correspondence in relation to your Freedom of
Information request (LEX 24850).

 

Regards

 

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 is intended for the use of the addressee and may contain
information that is confidential, commercially valuable or subject to
Legal Professional Privilege. Privilege is not waived by the mistaken
delivery of this email. If you are not the intended recipient of this
email you are notified that any use of dissemination of this communication
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error
please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

 

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From: Brendan Molloy

Delivered

Dear FOI Legal Team,

Would you be able to answer the following questions to assist me in refining the scope:

1) What is the approximate breakdown of the number of documents found between each part of my request? I'd like to know which aspect is most problematic in phrasing that it resulted in so many documents being found.

2) Would you be able to provide suggestions for each part to refine them to what you believe is the intent of each part?

I look forward to your input.

Yours sincerely,

Brendan Molloy

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Molloy

 

We refer to your email of 12 January 2017 regarding LEX 24850.

 

We have considered your correspondence and consulted with the relevant
business area of the department. As a result of these discussions, we can
confirm that points 1 and 2 of your request are especially voluminous with
most of the documents identified coming from these aspects of your
request.

 

Your request, as currently phrased, captures all documents, including
drafts, created during the development, testing and launch phases of the
project. For this reason, you may like to consider revising the scope of
those two parts of your request in particular.

 

We understand that in revising the scope of your request, it may assist
you to consider what you are looking to achieve through this process.
However, we are not in a position to speculate as to the intent of your
request, nor would it be appropriate for us to do so.

 

Regards

 

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 is intended for the use of the addressee and may contain
information that is confidential, commercially valuable or subject to
Legal Professional Privilege. Privilege is not waived by the mistaken
delivery of this email. If you are not the intended recipient of this
email you are notified that any use of dissemination of this communication
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error
please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

 

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From: Brendan Molloy

Delivered

Dear FOI Legal Team,

Thank you for the feedback, it has been very useful.

I would then amend my request as follows:

---

"Compliance system" refers to the DHS system that incorporates handling overpayment debt recovery communications for Centrelink clients.

1) Parts of final reports or similar documents relating to known errors and risks relating to the most recent iteration of "compliance system" that is currently in production;
2) Documents summarising or outlining the data sources used in the new "compliance system";
3) Documents listing the number of debt recovery requests sent on a monthly basis (or similar) from January 2016 to the date of receipt of this request; and
4) An aggregate number of reported complaints from when the system was introduced relating to false or miscalculated debt recovery requests.

The above parts should not contain:

a) Publicly available documents;
b) Documents intended for consumption by the media (such as press releases);
c) Draft documents; nor
d) Documents relating to issues no longer relevant to the "compliance system" in production

Further context:

Part 1 of the request should ideally only be part of a single technical report as would be consistent with the approach taken by private industry on software projects. These documents should detail any known defects and risks and should not duplicate any content of other documents where possible to limit scope and processing.

Part 2 should simply provide as few documents as possible that outline which data sources are used in the compliance system identified in Part 1. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet identifying what data is used and which department, database, or other organisation the data is supplied from. Any documents sufficient to provide a complete overview of the data sources available is sufficient for this part, and no further effort should be undertaken if possible.

---

Does the above seem sufficiently refined to process the request further? I am happy to provide further context to assist the DHS in taking a more narrow view of the parts, as my intent is to ask for what I had hoped to be very few documents here.

Yours sincerely,

Brendan Molloy

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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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Attachment LEX 24850 Revised scope acknowledgement letter.pdf
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Dear Mr Molloy

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your Freedom of
Information request (LEX 24850).

 

Regards

 

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 is intended for the use of the addressee and may contain
information that is confidential, commercially valuable or subject to
Legal Professional Privilege. Privilege is not waived by the mistaken
delivery of this email. If you are not the intended recipient of this
email you are notified that any use of dissemination of this communication
is strictly prohibited. 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 LEX 24850 Decision Decision letter final.pdf
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Dear Mr Molloy

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your Freedom of
Information request (LEX 24850).

 

Regards

 

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.

 

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Emmanuel Goldstein left an annotation ()

It might be useful to request a list and brief description of the documents identified, and then ask for those which appear most relevant.

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Human Services only: