Liability Acceptances and Refusals for June 2018

Julie made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Veterans' Affairs

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Department of Veterans' Affairs should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

From: Julie

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

I understand from a recent ANAO report that DVA compiles monthly statistics about its Rehabilitation & Compensation (R&C) functions via its Rehabilitation and Compensation Integrated Support Hub (ISH) system and associated spreadsheets.

I understand liability decisions are stored electronically now, with no paper files existing (other than as short term working documents, and that the exercise of delegations are digital only) on ISH and HP Content Manager, which ANAO stated was DVA’s primary records management systems.

So under FOI I seek copy of the summary statistic report for the month of June 2018 that details the number of liability claims accepted and rejected in that month, for VEA, DRCA and MRCA liability claims.

If such a document cannot be located, I seek under s 17 of the FOI Act for such a compilation to be compiled from DVA’s primary electronic records management systems ISH and HP Content Manager (which I believe DVA refers to as TRIM).

I searched the DVA website but I could not find any such published statistics, nor has DVA contributed any datasets to data.gov.au (unlike other Commonwealth agencies), so it appears FOI is the only option here.

Yours faithfully,

Julie

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

I understand DVA has is currently implementing a new reporting system called RACER, which was supposed to be operational by now, so the document sought (or its compilation) may also be available through that electronic information system as well.

Yours faithfully,

Julie

Link to this

From: INFORMATION.LAW
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Attachment image001.png
15K Download


Dear Julie,

 

Acknowledgement of FOI Request – FOI 24432

 

I refer to your request to access information held by our Department under
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).  The Department received
your request on 11 September 2018. In accordance with section 15(5)(b) of
the FOI Act, the Department has 30 days to process your request. As such,
a decision on your request is due by 11 October 2018.

 

If you have any questions about your FOI matter, please contact us using
the following details:

 

Post: Legal Services & Assurance, Department of Veterans’ Affairs

GPO Box 9998, Canberra ACT 2601

Facsimile: (02) 6289 6337

Email: [1][email address]

 

In all communications please quote reference FOI 24432.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Information Law Team

Legal Services & Assurance Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

GPO Box 9998 Canberra ACT 2601

E: [2][email address]

 

 

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

 

 

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: INFORMATION.LAW
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Attachment image001.png
15K Download


Dear Julie,

 

Request for Extension of time under s15AA of the Freedom of Information
Act 1982 (FOI Act)

 

FOI 24432

 

A decision is due on your request by 11 October 2018.

 

Unfortunately, the Department will be unable to finalise your request by
this date due to a large competing case load. While it is our goal to
process your request as soon as practicable, we would be grateful if you
would agree to a 30 day extension of time to process your request under
section 15AA of the FOI Act. If you are agreeable to the extension, the
revised due date for the decision will be 10 November 2018.

 

Please advise whether you agree to the extension of time by 5 October
2018.

 

If you agree to an extension, we will advise the Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner (OAIC) of the extension. As part of this, the
Department will provide your name and email address in case the OAIC needs
to contact you in about your FOI request.   

 

If you have any questions about your FOI matter, please contact us using
the following details:

 

 

Post: Legal Services & Assurance, Department of Veterans’ Affairs

GPO Box 9998, Canberra ACT 2601

Facsimile: (02) 6289 6337

Email: [1][email address]

 

 

 

Kind regards,

 

Information Law Team

 

Information Law | Legal Services & Assurance Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Gnabra House – 21 Genge Street Canberra City ACT 2601|GPO Box 9998
Canberra ACT 2601

E: [2][email address]

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

Dear INFORMATION.LAW,

I don’t have enough information from what you have provided to assess whether an extension would be reasonable, or even whether the time frame sought is reasonable.

You have basically just inferred you haven’t done any work to date on this FOI, but now realising the due date is coming up, want to treat the FOI as of it was made next week, instead of nearly a month ago.

Whether this is actually true or not, I have no information to determine either way.

I do note that the Information Commissioner has previously determined that if an agency’s mismanagement or failure to adequately resource its FOI functions had caused a delay, the FOI applicant should not be penalised for it (because it’s not their fault).

While I would consider agreeing to a reasonable extension, I have no information before me from DVA to assess what is reasonable in the circumstances (which may be 30 days or something lesser or not at all).

I am also concerned that despite citing a higher FOI workload, it seems that many people are being told they will having ongoing delays to their FOI by DVA at the moment, so it is unclear what DVA is actually working on right now that is causing these delays (especially if everyone is getting these delay notices).

So, as I do not want to treat you unfairly by just making a decision on very limited information from you, can you please advise the following before Oct 3:
* What work to date has already taken place on this FOI?
* What timetable of steps can DVA outline for this FOI if the extension is granted (maybe I can save you some time by letting you know what’s not necessary)?
* Will DVA agree not to make any charges notices or not to refuse to release anything, if the extension is agreed (there is not much point giving extra time if you have no intent to provide access)?
* Can you provide some transparency about this higher workload? Is it due to more FOIs, or higher priority FOIs, or staff absences or some other factor (and was there a reason DVA did not foresee it)?

I look forward to your response, which will hopefully provide the missing detail necessary to make an informed and fair decision on your application.

Yours sincerely,

Julie

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

Dear INFORMATION.LAW,

I am disappointed that my request for any information, beyond just that you are busy and put a low priority on this FOI, to support your extension request has not been provided.

I can only assume, that in DVA failing to substantiate any reasonable grounds, there are no reasonable grounds for extension.

If a response is not given by COB tomorrow, especially as to whether DVA intends to refuse or levy charges if extension is granted, then I can only go on the information before me - which is a generic and unsubstantiated claim that, basically, is the same as ‘the dog ate your homework’.

I had anticipated a professional response from DVA, but it appears there is none forthcoming.

Yours sincerely,

Julie

Link to this

From: INFORMATION.LAW
Department of Veterans' Affairs

Good morning Julie,

Thank you for your replies.

The Department has undertaken steps to process your request, including search requests to identify the documents you have sought access to. The Information Law Section is following up the results of those searches. We are unable to provide you with a timetable as such, but can advise that once the documents are identified and received, this section will need to review the material (and consider if a document can or needs to be created as noted in your request), and then ultimately make a decision on your request. As the documents have not yet been received by this section, we cannot advise at this stage how voluminous it may be. The Department is unable to agree that a charges notice will not be applied nor can we provide an undertaking that full access will provided in lieu of you agreeing to an extension of time.

Although we have asked for an extension of 30 days, we would welcome any extension you are agreeable with.

Kind Regards,

Information Law Team
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
E: [email address] | W: www.dva.gov.au

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

Dear INFORMATION.LAW,

So, to summarise your response:

^ Despite, according to Prime Minister and Cabinet guidelines someone else posted here on Right to Know, agencies commit no more than 2 calendar days to the conducting searches phases (and then only up to a maximum of one hour of staff time), the DVA has only just started this step and has yet to complete it (I note the DVA did not state when it first conducted these searches, nor state when they would be completed, despite the DVA being aware there is a hard limit on the time the DVA will conduct such searches);

^ Despite that the DVA has not completed any steps, even though the 30 day s 15(5)(b) deadline has almost expired, the DVA has not and will not commit nor consider what time it will commit to completing all the FOI steps by (which is concerning given the DVA has hard limits as to how much time it will spend on any FOI step, and should be planning and managing FOIs, not asserting that they are treated as hoc by the DVA’s specialised FOI staff);

^ The DVA may cause further delay by issuing a very late practical refusal, or very late charges notice, or very late intent to refuse access decision, all which will extend this FOI by months (possibly years if it goes to IC Review.

It is concerning that, having failed to substantiate any reasonable grounds for the initial failure to handle this FOI in accordance with the statutory obligations, that the DVA has just sat on the FOI for the vast majority of the s 15(5)(b) statutory period, to create delay. That is inconsistent with the aims and objects of the Freedom of Information Act.

It is also concerning that the 30 day extension sought, was not based on any reasonable need assessment, but rather to just claim the maximum extension possible (again inconsistent with the aims and objects of the Act).

You have not provided me with any substantive evidence that would justify that they delays caused were due to factors outside your control, to support extension. There is a worrying lack of transparency here, especially when the DVA has sought extensions to all my FOIs, regardless of simplicity or narrowness of scope.

I do note however that there remains another 7 business days before the s 15(5)(b) statutory deadline expires and that according to the Prime Minister and Cabinet guidance, this is ample time to complete a number of steps (including assessment).

If the DVA can update me on the progress it has made by COB Tuesday 9 October 2018, and if there has been substantive progress made, I will consider an extension at that time.

It is still something of a concern however, that the DVA is processing FOIs in an ad hoc haphazard way (which is the most generous and positive interpretation you can put on it), instead of planning and managing them professionally and competently in line with the aims, objects and purposes of the FOI Act and the various directives and guidelines that apply.

Yours sincerely,

Julie

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

Dear INFORMATION.LAW,

I note you have failed to respond as requested, to give sufficient information to determine your s 15AA extension request.

So have you secretly applied to the OAIC for a s 15AB extension here as well? If so, it should be (and should have been) disclosed to me, so I can exercise my right to be heard before any decision is made.

I find the DVA’s conduct here, from a governance perspective, to be worrying and indicative of a culture of some concern within DVA.

Yours sincerely,

Julie

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

For INFORMATION.LAW,

Timeline
^ FOI made 11 September 2018
^ The DVA acknowledged 12 September 2018, stating ‘The Department received
your request on 11 September 2018. In accordance with section 15(5)(b) of
the FOI Act, the Department has 30 days to process your request. As such,
a decision on your request is due by 11 October 2018’
^ No extension under s 15AA or s 15AB given before expiry of s 15(5)(b) deadline
^ No s 26A, s 27 or s 27A third party consultation extension was claimed before expiry of s 15(5)(b) deadline
^ No charges notice or practical refusal notification was issued before expiry of s 15(5)(b) deadline

This FOI made on 11 September 2018 to the DVA, acknowledged under s 15(5)(a) by the DVA on 12 September 2018, fell due under s 15(5)(b) on Thursday 11 October 2018.

No FOI decision was received from the DVA before the expiry of the s 15(5)(b) deadline, and nor has any notice of extension to the s 15(5)(b) deadline been provided.

As such, this FOI is now deemed by s 15AC of the FOI Act to be a deemed refusal by the principal officer of the DVA.

The principal officer of the agency or minister is taken to have made a decision to refuse access to the document on the last day of the decision period. Agencies still remain obligated to continue to process an FOI request even where the statutory timeframe has expired and an extension of time has been refused or not sought. The expiry of the timeframe gives the applicant the right to apply for review of a deemed decision — it does not remove the agency's obligation to process the request.

Disappointed,

Julie

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

To INFORMATION.LAW,

A month has since lapsed since this FOI received a deemed refusal response, without update or response from the Department, and this isn’t the only FOI so treated by the DVA in this way.

This is quite unprofessional behaviour and contrary to the obligations the Department is under, under the FOI regime.

The response to this request is long overdue and by law, under all circumstances, the authority should have responded by now.

Sincerely,

Julie

Link to this

From: Julie

Delivered

As the Department of Veterans‘ Affairs has repeatedly failed to be reasonable, I have had no choice but to refer this unethical behaviour to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

I would highlight the unprofessional bad faith behaviour by Veterans’ Affairs, in repeatedly forcing decisions to deemed status, then continuing to ignore the Department’s obligation to provide a decision notice.

Julie

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Veterans' Affairs only: