Failure by the Department of Home Affairs to comply with FOI Law

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet did not have the information requested.

Dear Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,

As the Department would know the Department of Home Affairs has consistently and repeatedly failed to comply with the disclosure log requirements of the FOI legislation.

Under FOI I seek access to documents, concerning or relating to the failure by the Department of Home Affairs to comply with the disclosure log requirement in the FOI legislation,
(a) sent from or
(b) received by
the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet during the period December 2017 to the date of this request.

Yours faithfully,

JS

Ben Fairless left an annotation ()

Just an idea to help, you might also want to request the same documents of the OAIC as they would be more likely to hold more documents about the subject matter in question.

Cheers,
Ben

JS left an annotation ()

Ben

Thanks - I agree about OAIC but decided to try the others first,

OAIC is under-funded and overworked. OAIC is to report shortly on its investigation into FOI practices at Home Affairs. In evidence to a Senate enquiry last year the Secretary, Mr Pezzullo, said: We'll see what the Information Commissioner finds and we'll see what sanctions she raises, which is a certificate to get me to do better, and I look forward to that certificate.

A Disclosure Log is not a complex or burdensome process. Yet the Dept of Home Affairs has failed to comply with the law not once or twice but on many, many hundreds of occasions in 2018/2019 and more in 2020. Transparency and accountability for failing to comply with the law on numerous occasions goes beyond the remit of OAIC.

The graffiti of accountability is everywhere. - “Everyone should comply with the law. It is pretty straight forward.” “No one is above the law” "Accountability will require a public statement, which can include job losses at the top,” “What gives people a ticket to not obey the law? , “promote high standards of accountability”, “confidence in the integrity of commonwealth public administration”

The former Public Service Commissioner, Mr Lloyd, expressed the view that there is a public interest in ensuring that the Code of Conduct scheme that applies in the APS is robust and effective, and not one that would be regarded as being ineffective and indulgent. It looks like “ineffective and indulgent” is well ahead at present.

Substitute Department for Civilisation and this tweet by the Chair of the Institute of Public Affairs, Janet Albrechtsen, is apt:
"This is how a civilisation slowly rots. When it can’t get the basics right.

cheers

Ben Fairless left an annotation ()

I agree with you that a disclosure log shouldn't be a burdensome process.

Look at this site, it's a free service run by a charity and we seem to do OK at maintaining a constant log of all requests made and any documents released.

Obviously I'm biased, but if a small charity can do it surely Home Affairs (one of the top 3 FOI'ed agencies in the country) can do it too.

FOI, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

8 Attachments

OFFICIAL

FOI/2020/272

 

Dear JS

 

Thank you for your email dated 17 November 2020, received by the
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the Department), in which
you made a request to the Department under the Freedom of Information Act
1982 (the FOI Act) in the following terms:

 

As the Department would know the Department of Home Affairs has
consistently and repeatedly failed to comply with the disclosure log
requirements of the FOI legislation.

 

Under FOI I seek access to documents, concerning or relating to the
failure by the Department of Home Affairs to comply with the disclosure
log requirement in the FOI legislation,

(a) sent from or

(b) received by

the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet during the period December
2017 to the date of this request.

 

Timeframe for receiving your decision

 

We received your request on 17 November 2020 and the 30 day statutory
period for processing your request commenced from the day after that date.
You should therefore expect a decision from us by Thursday, 17 December
2020. The period of 30 days may be extended in certain circumstances. We
will advise you if there is any extension of time.

 

Charges

 

Agencies may decide that an applicant is liable to pay a charge in respect
of a request for access to documents. If the Department decides that you
are liable to pay a charge, we will send you a preliminary assessment of
the charge as soon as possible.

 

Publication of documents

 

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log at
[1]https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/depart...,
subject to certain exceptions. If you think you might wish to raise any
objections to the publication of any of the information which may be
released to you please contact us by email at [2][DPMC request email]. If you do
wish to object to the publication of information, you would need to
provide supporting reasons.

 

Exclusion of officers’ names and contact details

 

For documents that fall within scope of the request, it is the
Department’s policy to withhold:

·        any person’s signature;

·        the names and contact details of Australian Public Service
officers not in the Senior Executive Service (SES);

·        the mobile or direct numbers of SES officers;

·        the names and contact details of Ministerial staff at a level
below Chief of Staff.

 

The names and other details of SES officers will not be withheld unless
there is some reason for that information to be exempt from release. If
you require signatures, the names and contact details of Ministerial staff
below the level of Chief of Staff, or the mobile or direct numbers of SES
officers please let us know at [3][DPMC request email] so the decision-maker may
consider; otherwise we will take it that you agree to that information
being excluded from the scope of your request (that is, the information
will be treated as irrelevant and redacted from any documents for
release). We acknowledge you have agreed you do not require the names and
direct contact details of non-senior staff and any third parties.

 

The names and other details of SES officers will not be withheld unless
there is some reason for that information to be exempt from release.

 

We will write again when the Department has more information. Further
information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the Office of
the Australian Information Commissioner
[4]https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor....

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section| Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

[5]http://www.dcducks.com/wp-content/themes...
6271 5849
[6]http://cdn.mysitemyway.com/icons-waterma... request email]

[8]https://www.musicianswithoutborders.org/...

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

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[14]cid:image005.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

 

 

 

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References

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1. https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/depart...
2. mailto:[DPMC request email]
3. mailto:[DPMC request email]
4. https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor...
7. mailto:[DPMC request email]
9. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
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12. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
13. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

FOI, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

9 Attachments

OFFICIAL

FOI/2020/272

 

Dear JS

 

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

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section| Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

[1]http://www.dcducks.com/wp-content/themes...
6271 5849 |
[2]http://cdn.mysitemyway.com/icons-waterma... request email]
|
[4]https://www.musicianswithoutborders.org/...

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[6]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[7]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[8]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00 [9]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[10]cid:image005.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
3. mailto:[DPMC request email]
5. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
6. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
7. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
8. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
9. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

Dear FOI,

Thank you for the decision.

Under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act the accountable authority of each entity has a Duty to establish and maintain systems relating to risk and control. Under the Public Service Act the responsibilities of the Secretary of a Department include implementing measures directed at ensuring that the Department complies with the law. The Code of Conduct for the Australian Public Service requires that an employee must act with care and diligence in connection with APS employment.

Despite these accountability measures the head of the Public Service seems to have remained blissfully unaware of the Department of Home Affairs significant and systematic failure to comply with the FOI legislation on numerous occasions since 2018 at least.

Ironically, the Department of Home Affairs publishes the following statements on its website:

Australian values include commitment to the rule of law, which means that all people are subject to the law and should obey it.
As an Australian citizen you must obey the laws of Australia.

Rule of law
All Australians are equal under the law. No person, group or religion is above the law. Everyone, including people who hold positions of power in the Australian community, must obey Australia’s laws.

Commitment to the Rule of Law
All Australians are protected by our laws and legal systems. Australians recognize the importance of laws in maintaining a peaceful and orderly society.

Under the Rule of Law, all Australians are equal in relation to the law and no person or group is above the law.

Yours sincerely,

JS