Gifts Register and Official Hospitality Expenditures for FY19/20

Waiting for an internal review by Department of Veterans' Affairs of their handling of this request.

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

For the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, I request copy of:

* the Department of Veterans' Affairs (including the Repatriation Commission) Gift Register for FY19/20

* the transaction list of all expenses coded as official hospitality for FY19/20

* the transaction list of all expenses coded as (or that would fall under the umbrella of) official travel expenses for the Secretary, for FY19/20 (official travel includes airfare costs, hire car and chauffeur costs, accomodation costs, incidental costs, etc).

All these documents are mandatory records required to be kept by the Department, that will have already been reviewed (many times already), and are to be provided in PDF format to this notice for addresses.

Sincerely

Julie

INFORMATION.ACCESS, Department of Veterans' Affairs

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Thank you for contacting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

 

Your email has been received and will be actioned shortly.

 

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Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Phone: 1800 555 254

[1]www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-business-reporting/freedom-information

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INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

Dear Julie,

 

Acknowledgement of your Freedom of Information (FOI) Request – FOI 39099

 

I refer to your request for access to documents held by the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs (Department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(Cth) (FOI Act).

 

Your request was received by the Department on 5 November 2020 and was
made in the following terms:

 

“…Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

 

For the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, I request copy of:

 

* the Department of Veterans' Affairs (including the Repatriation
Commission) Gift Register for FY19/20

 

* the transaction list of all expenses coded as official hospitality for
FY19/20

 

* the transaction list of all expenses coded as (or that would fall under
the umbrella of) official travel expenses for the Secretary, for FY19/20
(official travel includes airfare costs, hire car and chauffeur costs,
accomodation costs, incidental costs, etc).

 

All these documents are mandatory records required to be kept by the
Department, that will have already been reviewed (many times already), and
are to be provided in PDF format to this notice for addresses…”

 

The Department has 30 days to finalise your request. The 30 day statutory
timeframe commenced the day after your request was received by the
Department.

 

Ordinarily you should expect a decision from the Department by 7 December
2020.

 

Interrupted work practices impacted by COVID-19

The Department is continuing to work through its FOI case load as quickly
as possible. However, the Department is and will continue to experience an
interruption in the way it will be able to manage FOI requests. As you are
likely to be aware, COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has been declared a pandemic by
the World Health Organisation. As the Department focuses its efforts on
managing the impact of COVID-19 on its critical services and employees,
other non-critical services may not be delivered within expected
timeframes. It is possible that during this time, business areas that
would ordinarily have capacity to undertake searches and assist in the
processing of FOI requests may not be readily available to provide that
assistance. This may have an impact on the manner and timeframe in which
the Department can process FOI requests.

 

We apologise for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience and
cooperation during this period.

 

When the processing period may be extended or suspended

As noted above, there are times when the timeframe for processing your
request might be extended by an additional 30 days. This can occur where
an extension of time has been agreed to by yourself under section 15AA of
the FOI Act or where the OAIC has granted an extension of time under
sections 15AB or 15AC of the FOI Act. In addition, if documents you seek
contain information of third parties and the Department is of the view
that is practical to consult with the third parties, then the Department
will be afforded an additional 30 days to undertake that consolation
process (see sections 15(6), 26A, 27 and 27A of the FOI Act). The
Department will advise you if a third party consultation process is
required and of the revised due date for your request to be finalised by.

 

Additionally, there are occasions where the time to process your request
may be suspended. This will usually take place if a practical refusal
consultation process takes place (section 24AB of the FOI Act) or if a
charges notice is issued to process your request (section 29 of the FOI
Act). If the Department decides that either of these apply to your
request, the Department will notify you.

 

Communication with you

The FOI Act requires that you provide us with an address which we can send
notices to. You have advised your electronic address is
[1][FOI #6869 email]. We will send all notices
and correspondence to this address. Please advise us if you wish
correspondence to be sent to another address or if your address changes.
If you do not advise us of changes to your address, correspondence and
notices will continue to be sent to the address specified above.

 

FOI Disclosure log – Publication of documents released under the FOI Act

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may be published
in a disclosure log on the Department’s website at
[2]https://www.dva.gov.au/about-us/overview....
Section 11C of the FOI Act requires this publication, however it is
subject to certain exceptions, including where publication of personal,
business, professional or commercial information would be unreasonable.

 

When a decision is provided to you, the Department will advise if the
documents released to you will be published on the Department’s FOI
Disclosure log.

 

Contacting us about your FOI request

We will email again when the Department has more information. Should you
have any enquiries concerning this matter, please send an email to
[3][email address]

 

Further information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the
OAIC at [4]https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor....

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Tayla (Position Number 62217695)

Information Access Officer

Information Law Section

Legal Services and Audit Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

T: 1800 555 254 | E: [5][email address]

A: GPO Box 9998, Canberra, ACT, 2601 | W: [6]www.dva.gov.au

 

show quoted sections

INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

4 Attachments

Dear Julie,

 

Please see attached three (3) documents and Statement of Reasons in
relation to FOI 39099.

 

Thank you.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Tayla (Position Number 62217695)

Information Access Officer

Information Law Section

Legal Services and Audit Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

T: 1800 555 254 | E: [1][email address]

A: GPO Box 9998, Canberra, ACT, 2601 | W: [2]www.dva.gov.au

 

 

From: INFORMATION.LAW
Sent: Tuesday, 10 November 2020 12:31 PM
To: '[FOI #6869 email]'
Cc: INFORMATION.LAW
Subject: Acknowledgment of your FOI request - FOI 39099 [SEC=OFFICIAL]

 

Dear Julie,

 

Acknowledgement of your Freedom of Information (FOI) Request – FOI 39099

 

I refer to your request for access to documents held by the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs (Department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(Cth) (FOI Act).

 

Your request was received by the Department on 5 November 2020 and was
made in the following terms:

 

“…Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

 

For the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, I request copy of:

 

* the Department of Veterans' Affairs (including the Repatriation
Commission) Gift Register for FY19/20

 

* the transaction list of all expenses coded as official hospitality for
FY19/20

 

* the transaction list of all expenses coded as (or that would fall under
the umbrella of) official travel expenses for the Secretary, for FY19/20
(official travel includes airfare costs, hire car and chauffeur costs,
accomodation costs, incidental costs, etc).

 

All these documents are mandatory records required to be kept by the
Department, that will have already been reviewed (many times already), and
are to be provided in PDF format to this notice for addresses…”

 

The Department has 30 days to finalise your request. The 30 day statutory
timeframe commenced the day after your request was received by the
Department.

 

Ordinarily you should expect a decision from the Department by 7 December
2020.

 

Interrupted work practices impacted by COVID-19

The Department is continuing to work through its FOI case load as quickly
as possible. However, the Department is and will continue to experience an
interruption in the way it will be able to manage FOI requests. As you are
likely to be aware, COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has been declared a pandemic by
the World Health Organisation. As the Department focuses its efforts on
managing the impact of COVID-19 on its critical services and employees,
other non-critical services may not be delivered within expected
timeframes. It is possible that during this time, business areas that
would ordinarily have capacity to undertake searches and assist in the
processing of FOI requests may not be readily available to provide that
assistance. This may have an impact on the manner and timeframe in which
the Department can process FOI requests.

 

We apologise for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience and
cooperation during this period.

 

When the processing period may be extended or suspended

As noted above, there are times when the timeframe for processing your
request might be extended by an additional 30 days. This can occur where
an extension of time has been agreed to by yourself under section 15AA of
the FOI Act or where the OAIC has granted an extension of time under
sections 15AB or 15AC of the FOI Act. In addition, if documents you seek
contain information of third parties and the Department is of the view
that is practical to consult with the third parties, then the Department
will be afforded an additional 30 days to undertake that consolation
process (see sections 15(6), 26A, 27 and 27A of the FOI Act). The
Department will advise you if a third party consultation process is
required and of the revised due date for your request to be finalised by.

 

Additionally, there are occasions where the time to process your request
may be suspended. This will usually take place if a practical refusal
consultation process takes place (section 24AB of the FOI Act) or if a
charges notice is issued to process your request (section 29 of the FOI
Act). If the Department decides that either of these apply to your
request, the Department will notify you.

 

Communication with you

The FOI Act requires that you provide us with an address which we can send
notices to. You have advised your electronic address is
[3][FOI #6869 email]. We will send all notices
and correspondence to this address. Please advise us if you wish
correspondence to be sent to another address or if your address changes.
If you do not advise us of changes to your address, correspondence and
notices will continue to be sent to the address specified above.

 

FOI Disclosure log – Publication of documents released under the FOI Act

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may be published
in a disclosure log on the Department’s website at
[4]https://www.dva.gov.au/about-us/overview....
Section 11C of the FOI Act requires this publication, however it is
subject to certain exceptions, including where publication of personal,
business, professional or commercial information would be unreasonable.

 

When a decision is provided to you, the Department will advise if the
documents released to you will be published on the Department’s FOI
Disclosure log.

 

Contacting us about your FOI request

We will email again when the Department has more information. Should you
have any enquiries concerning this matter, please send an email to
[5][email address]

 

Further information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the
OAIC at [6]https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor....

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Tayla (Position Number 62217695)

Information Access Officer

Information Law Section

Legal Services and Audit Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

T: 1800 555 254 | E: [7][email address]

A: GPO Box 9998, Canberra, ACT, 2601 | W: [8]www.dva.gov.au

 

show quoted sections

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Veterans' Affairs's handling of my FOI request 'Gifts Register and Official Hospitality Expenditures for FY19/20'.

The scope of my FOI request included "a transaction list of all expenses coded as (or that would fall under the umbrella of) official travel expenses for the Secretary, for FY19/20 (official travel includes airfare costs, hire car and chauffeur costs, accommodation costs, incidental costs, etc)". You have provided only copies of Comcar invoices received by the Department for the Secretary's use of ComCars.

This is clearly insufficient given the breadth of scope (which includes all official travel expenses, including airfares, meal allowances, etc), and indicates that the Department has failed to process the FOI as it is legally obligated to (given such official travel records are required by law to be retained for at least seven years).

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

Sincerely

Julie

INFORMATION.ACCESS, Department of Veterans' Affairs

** This is an automated response. Please do not reply to this email **

Thank you for contacting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

 

Your email has been received and will be actioned shortly.

 

National Information Access Processing

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Phone: 1800 555 254

[1]www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-business-reporting/freedom-information

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Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

In respect to the gifts register, is there any Departmental document regarding the accepting of gifts (of which there are quite a few on the register) from vendors the Department pays for goods or services?

The reason I ask is that, unlike modest gifts received from customers or clients (if received after any decision affecting them is made), there is a significant probity and integrity issue in accepting gifts from parties that seek contracts from, or are paid for supplying goods and services to, an agency given that even modest gifts (especially if not rare) create a conflict of interest and can improperly influence officers doing procurement functions. This is why a number of agencies have a strict no gifts policy from such contractors/suppliers/tenderers as a result.

Also, I noticed a pair of real sapphire earring was put on the gift register as having an estimated value of $40. This would be a quite low estimate for precious gem earrings, so raises whether an estimate was given specifically to slide under the $50 threshold of modest gift.

Sincerely

Julie

INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

Dear Julie

Thank you for your emails dated 8 December 2020.

The Department acknowledges receipt of your Internal Review request and has 30 days to finalise a decision in this matter.

You should expect an internal review decision on 7 January 2021.

Kind regards

Molly (Position Number 62213164)
Legal Officer
Information Law Section
Legal Services and Audit Branch
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
t 1800 555 254 | e [email address] | www.dva.gov.au
p GPO Box 9998, Canberra ACT 2601

Please consider the environment before printing this email
The Department acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land throughout Australia and their continuing connection to country, sea and community. We pay our respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultures and to their elders past and present.
IMPORTANT: This document contains legal advice and may be subject to legal professional privilege. Unless it is waived or lost, legal professional privilege is a rule of law that, in part, provides that the client need not disclose confidential communications between a legal practitioner and client. To keep this privilege, the purpose and content of this advice must only be disclosed to persons who have a need to know and on the basis that those persons also keep it confidential.
You should consider this advice and take it into account when forming a decision on how best to proceed. If you decide to adopt a position that does not align with this advice, you should not state that DVA Legal Services & Audit Branch has cleared or endorsed a particular position.

show quoted sections

INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

1 Attachment

Good morning Julie,

 

Internal review 39750 (of FOI 39099)

 

A decision on your request for an internal review of the Department’s
decision in FOI 39099 was due yesterday, 7 January 2021. I apologise that
a decision was not issued to you yesterday. The Department is continuing
to process your internal review and I expect a decision will be issued to
you next week.

 

Kind regards

Jo

 

Jo (Position Number 62210326)

Assistant Director

Information Law Section

Legal Services and Audit Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

t 1800 555 254 | e [1][email address]  | [2]www.dva.gov.au

p GPO Box 9998, Canberra ACT 2601

[3]cid:image001.png@01D0027A.1DAB84F0

P Please consider the environment before printing this email

IMPORTANT:  This document contains legal advice and may be subject to
legal professional privilege. Unless it is waived or lost, legal
professional privilege is a rule of law that, in part, provides that the
client need not disclose confidential communications between a legal
practitioner and client. To keep this privilege, the purpose and content
of this advice must only be disclosed to persons who have a need to know
and on the basis that those persons also keep it confidential.

You should consider this advice and take it into account when forming a
decision on how best to proceed. If you decide to adopt a position that
does not align with this advice, you should not state that DVA Legal
Services & Audit Branch has cleared or endorsed a particular position.

show quoted sections

Shelley Napper,

5 Attachments

Our reference: RQ20/00119

Agency reference: 39750

Julie

Sent by email: [FOI #6869 email]

Extension of time application by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Dear Julie

 

I write to advise that on 13 January 2021 the Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner (the OAIC) received an application from the
Department of Veterans’ Affairs (the Department) for an extension of
time, to process your internal review request of 8 December 2020.

 

The Department has applied for an extension of time under s 54D of the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) because it has been unable to
finalise your request within the initial decision period.

 

The Department has advised the OAIC that:

 

o it has undertaken further searches in relation to the scope of your
request
o further documents are being considered in relation to the scope of the
request, and
o it has contacted you to apologise for not having provided a decision
and to confirm the Department is continuing to process you internal
review request.

 

The Department has requested an extension to 27 January 2021. I will take
any comments you may have to make into account when deciding the
application.

 

Please respond to this email by close of business 15 January 2021. If I do
not hear from you by this date, I will proceed to make a decision on the
basis of the information provided to me by the Department.

 

You will be notified of the decision once the matter has been finalised.

 

Further information about extension of time requests may be found on our
website at [1]Extensions of time.

Contact

If you have any questions, please contact me on (02) 9284 9721 or via
email [2][email address]. In all correspondence please include
reference number at the top of this email.

 

Kind regards

 

[3][IMG]   Shelley Napper  |  Assistant
Director

Freedom of Information

Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner

GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001  |
 [4]oaic.gov.au

+61 2 9284 9721  | 
[5][email address]
[9]Subscribe [10]Subscribe to
[6]Facebook | [7]LinkedIn | [8]Twitter |   icon Information
Matters

 

 

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References

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8. https://twitter.com/OAICgov
10. https://www.oaic.gov.au/media-and-speech...

Dear Shelley Napper,

The internal review decision was due on 7 January 2021, and the Department of Veterans' Affairs did not apply for an extension of time under s 54D(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) to the Office of the Information Commissioner until 13 January 2021 (requesting another 20 days, on top of the 30 days it had already squandered) - so the extension of time request is retrospective, and the internal review decision is already considered a deemed affirmation of the original decision by section 54D(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth).

Notably section 54D(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) does not state it acts retrospectively, and the operation of section 54D(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) is contingent on an agency seeking extension from the Information Commissioner before expiry of the internal review decision period. At common law and in statutory interpretation caselaw, a statute is presumed not to have retrospective operation unless displaced by words to that effect.

Of further note, the benefit of a section 54D(3) extension of time is not to an applicant, but to an agency, as the applicant is entitled to receive an actual internal review decision in lieu of a section 54D(2) deemed affirmation regardless of any extension of time. The benefit of section 54D(3) extension of time is solely to the agency in that it makes the failure to comply with section 54C(3) (which is recorded in that agency's FOI statistics, which are required to be statutorily reported periodically), into an 'in-time' decision.

I note, however, that the history of the Office of the Information Commissioner with respect to Extension of Time (EOT) requests is to rubber stamp (approve) uncritically practically any EOT request made to it by agencies, just so long as all fields in the EOT form are filled in. The Office of the Information Commissioner's history of ignoring all relevant considerations, to assist agencies to massage their FOI statistics (because this is the only real effect of an EOT approve) - the irrelevant consideration, is well known however so I anticipate you will ignore the following as well.

You state the Department of Veterans' Affairs has relied upon the sole ground of its application being "because it has been unable to finalise your request within the initial decision period", however you have provided no evidence or justification or even claim as to why it "has been unable to finalise" the internal review in a period that other Departments routinely do.

This raises the question as to whether you are acting as a rational and reasonable decision maker, in that beyond a claim being made that the Department that it "has been unable to finalise" the internal review within the statutory period, you have stated no evidence as to why this should be accepted.

That the Department of Veterans' Affairs has previously made statements in prior Extension of Time applications to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which subsequently turned out to be false (the over 200 pages within scope claim made by the Department of Veterans' Affairs in the Veteran Centric Reform FOI EOT, for example, when it subsequently only reviewed three pages in the FOI decision) is also a relevant factor, but again one which the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner noted but ignored, without providing any evidence of consideration or rationalisation, in a recent EOT approval for the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

It therefore makes it very unlikely you will take these comments "into account", but as saying nothing only perpetuates and gives implied consent to the unethical conduct the OAIC brings to its EOT practices and processes, not given comment would be worse.

At the very least, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner should, under section 54D(5) of Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth), impose a condition on any granted EOT given to the Department of Veterans' Affairs in this matter, that it must provide the further documents it claims are being considered (otherwise it'll be just another empty claim) - even if there was no real reason as to why these activities could not have been completed within the original decision period (as section 54C(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) reasonably expects).

My preference is, however, that given an extension of time provides me no real benefit, given a internal review decision to replace the deemed affirmation is required anyway regardless of any EOT, is that it not be granted given its only benefit is to the Department of Veterans' Affairs (when it is the only one responsible for its failure to comply with section 54C(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth), without providing any good reason for not having done so, and noting this is hardly an isolated occurrence from them).

Sincerely

Julie