Governance and Oversight of Centrelink Data Matching

Justin Warren made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Human Services

The request was refused by Department of Human Services.

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

If possible, please treat this as an informal or administrative request. Otherwise, please treat this as a formal request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

I request the following information relating to the initiative to match Centrelink data with data from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to detect potential overpayment and the recovery of those overpayments from citizens. This initiative has been extensively covered by the media using various names, including #robodebt and #notmydebt.

- Documents listing identified risks, categorisations (Likelihood, Impact, etc.), and treatments in the period 1 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016. You have previously indicated that these are known more specifically as:

a) Risk Plans
b) Weekly Reports
c) Issues and Escalated Issues Registers

as per the FOI request listed here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r..., LEX 26567.

I further request that all charges in relation to this request be waived as this information is in the public interest. The initiative concerns all Australians who pay tax or who receive entitlements from Centrelink, and all citizens are concerned with the integrity of the entitlements system.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX28338 Acknowledgement Freedom of Information Request.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence regarding your recent request.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team

 

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

[1][email address]

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence relating to your recent FOI request.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team

 

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

[1][email address]

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IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and
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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

I am happy to revise my request to exclude draft documents.

I note that you have not supplied the name of the contact person to consult with. A name is required by section 24AB (2) (c) of the Freedom of Information Act 1998 (The FOI Act) (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/c...

Who is the contact person during this consultation period, and how may I contact them directly? It may be that further refinements to the scope are required, and I am keen to ensure that I do not hinder the Department in fulfilling its responsibilities under section 24AB (3) and (4) of the FOI Act.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,
 
The name of the contact person in relation to your request is Charlotte.
The best means of contacting her to discuss your request is by email to
[1][email address].
 
You may provide a phone number by return email for Charlotte to contact
you, if you wish.
 
Kind regards,
 
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services
[2][email address]

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX28338 Acknowledgement Letter Revised Scope.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached an acknowledgement letter relating to your revised
request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Charlotte

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

[1][email address]

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IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and
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subject to legal or parliamentary privilege. If you are not the intended
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dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon,
this information is prohibited and may result in severe penalties. If you
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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence relating to your request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Charlotte

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

[1][email address]

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**********************************************************************
IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and
may contain information that is confidential, commercially valuable and/or
subject to legal or parliamentary privilege. If you are not the intended
recipient you are notified that any review, re-transmission, disclosure,
dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon,
this information is prohibited and may result in severe penalties. If you
have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately
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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Charlotte,

Thank you for your letter.

I contend that the charge should not be imposed because access to these documents is in the general public interest or, at the very least, in the interest of a substantial section of the public.

That this matter is in the general public interest is clear given its extensive media coverage and the fact that a Senate Inquiry into the matter is current progressing. It is also clear that this matter is of interest to a substantial section of the public, given the number of submissions to the Inquiry, stories shared on the notmydebt.com.au website, the regular activity on the #notmydebt hashtag on Twitter, and that the Department has made numerous updates regarding this issue on its Media Hub. A matter of inconsequential interest would not have required such a public response from the Department over such a sustained period.

Factors favouring disclosure in the public interest in this case include:

- It will allow or assist inquiry into possible deficiencies in the conduct or administration of the Department with regard to this initiative, particularly in its management of risks.
- It will reveal the reasons for government decisions and any background or contextual information that informed the decision, particularly in its management of risks.
- It will inform debate on a matter of public importance, i.e. the administration of the welfare payments system, which forms a substantial part of the budget.
- It will promote of the effective oversight of public expenditure, both that of the welfare system itself, and the systems put in place to detect and correct over- and under-payments.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX 28338 Charges Reconsideration Final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence relating to your Freedom of
Information request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Charlotte

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

[1][email address]

[2]Description: Description: Description: Description: Description:
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Description: Description: Description: cid:image001.png@01CE26E6.4AB93B70

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**********************************************************************
IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and
may contain information that is confidential, commercially valuable and/or
subject to legal or parliamentary privilege. If you are not the intended
recipient you are notified that any review, re-transmission, disclosure,
dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon,
this information is prohibited and may result in severe penalties. If you
have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately
and delete all electronic and hard copies of this transmission together
with any attachments. Please consider the environment before printing this
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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

I request an internal review of this decision.

I draw the reviewer's attention to the following aspects of the decision:

"The release of the documents would adversely affect and compromise the department’s ability to undertake audit and compliance activities, an outcome that is not in the general public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public." This decision is in relation to the charges for processing documents for their release, not whether the documents should be released. This comment suggests that the Department is using the imposition of charges to create a barrier to release.

"While I accept that the Online Compliance Intervention has been the subject of media attention, consideration of the public interest is not primarily concerned with curiosity or commentary." See the Freedom of Information Act, s3(2), particularly s3(2)(b). You insult my intelligence to suggest that my request is made out of mere curiosity.

"In my view, the information contained in the documents (insofar as their disclosure is not contrary to the public interest) already substantially exists in the public domain, and the release of the full documents would not substantially contribute to the public debate, in a manner that would justify reducing or waiving the charges above." The Department is well aware of the FOI Act's provisions that provide for redaction of documents where necessary, e.g. s22 of the FOI Act. If the Department is not well aware, then we are going to have an entirely different, and much more serious, problem to deal with.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment Acknowledgement Letter Internal Review.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request for
internal review under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. Your reference
for this matter is LEX 29682.

 

Kind regards,

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services
Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01CF8C5E.459B3DD0

 

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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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX29682 Internal Review Decision Charges Final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached our decision regarding your internal review of
charges in relation to LEX 29682. 

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services
Email: [1][email address]

 

[2]cid:image001.png@01CF8C5E.459B3DD0

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

I will elect to pay a deposit for the charge. 25% of $226.25 is $56.56.

What is the email address I should use in order to send an Australia Post online money order?

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

As advised in the charge notice issued to you in relation to this request,
charges can be paid by either cheque or money order made out to the
Collector of Public Monies.

 

The department cannot accept Australia Post online money orders.

 

Kind regards,

 

Charlotte

 

Charlie Inglis

FOI Practitioner

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Dorris Blackburn Building

18 Canberra Ave, Forrest ACT 2603

( (02) 6141 8792 | Ext: 618792 | *
[1][email address]

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

I have just posted you an AusPost money order for the full charges.

I look forward to receiving the documents.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

It is now 9 business days since I posted the money order. Have you received it? If so, when did you receive it?

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Your money order for the amount of $226.25 was received by the FOI team on
18 July 2017 and the time for processing your request recommenced on that
date.

 

You can therefore expect a decision from us no later than 27 July 2017.

 

Kind regards

 

Chelsea

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

[1][email address]

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**********************************************************************
IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and
may contain information that is confidential, commercially valuable and/or
subject to legal or parliamentary privilege. If you are not the intended
recipient you are notified that any review, re-transmission, disclosure,
dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon,
this information is prohibited and may result in severe penalties. If you
have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately
and delete all electronic and hard copies of this transmission together
with any attachments. Please consider the environment before printing this
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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your FOI request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Chelsea

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: Description: Description: cid:image001.png@01CE26E6.4AB93B70

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**********************************************************************
IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and
may contain information that is confidential, commercially valuable and/or
subject to legal or parliamentary privilege. If you are not the intended
recipient you are notified that any review, re-transmission, disclosure,
dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon,
this information is prohibited and may result in severe penalties. If you
have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately
and delete all electronic and hard copies of this transmission together
with any attachments. Please consider the environment before printing this
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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Human Services's handling of my FOI request 'Governance and Oversight of Centrelink Data Matching'.

In assessing the charges for this request, the Department asserted that "the information already substantially exists in the public domain, and the release of the full documents would not significantly contribute to the public debate in a manner that would justify reducing or waiving the charges." It has now asserted that release of this information would have an adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the department. It is not possible for both of these assertions to be true simultaneously.

A conditional exemption under s47E(d) requires that the adverse effect be substantial. If the information already substantially exists in the public domain, it is difficult to see how the release of the remainder of the information unique to these documents can create a substantial adverse effect. Surely the majority of the adverse effect would have already been felt.

The Risk Management Plan, by its nature, should indicate not only the risks but also their treatments, mitigations, and other actions to be taken to manage these risks. If "release of these documents may undermine the effectiveness of departmental procedures" then it is reasonable to expect that these procedures (and the Risk Management Plan) can be improved, and that public scrutiny will provide pressure on the Department to do so. Therefore disclosure should lead to improvements in the proper and efficient conduct of DHS operations. See also: Alistair Peter Scholes and Australian Federal Police [1996] AATA 347, pp174.

The Department asserts that "Release of the documents may also prejudice the department’s ability to collect the information it needs from income support recipients, who may be reluctant to provide information online if they do not believe that the department’s ICT infrastructure is sufficiently robust and secure because the system would be potentially exposed to external threats." s11B (4) (a) of the FOI Act (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/c... clearly states that "access to the document could result in embarrassment to the Commonwealth Government, or cause a loss of confidence in the Commonwealth Government" is an irrelevant factor when determining if access to a conditionally exempt document is contrary to the public interest.

The Department has not availed itself of s22 of the FOI Act to supply edited copies of the documents with conditionally exempt material removed.

The Department has used an overbroad interpretation of the reasoning in ‘IN’ and Australian Taxation Office [2016] AICmr 33 (the IN decision). The relevant part of the IN decision related to the examption of specific parts of documents under s 47E(d), not the entire document, because those specific parts contained specific ATO audit processes. It is unlikely that this kind of specific audit process information would be contained in the documents in this request. Even if it does, it is possible to prepare an edited document that redacts this information using the provisions of s22 of the FOI Act, leaving the rest of the document intact.

In deciding to refuse access to all four documents in full, it is difficult to see how the Department can have spent the full 5 minutes per page on "examination and redaction"; no redaction has taken place. Therefore one must assume that the full 5 minutes per page has been used painstakingly examining each one to ensure that all information on every page is subject to an s 47E(d) exemption, which strains credulity.

It would be disappointing to discover this arduous process did not actually occur. However, it would also prove embarrassing for the FOI Unit if the decision maker did indeed scrutinise each and every page with such diligence, only to be unable to identify any non-exempt information whatsoever. I trust that in reviewing their decisions you will discover that every single piece of information in these documents has been correctly identified as being s 47E(d) exempt.

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...

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please see attached correspondence in relation to your request for
internal review.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services
Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D286D9.F238A730

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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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please see attached correspondence in relation to your request for
Internal Review.

 

Kind regards,

 

FOI Legal Team

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services
Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image001.png@01D286D9.F238A730

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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