Non Employment Income Data Matching (NEIDM) Project program protocol

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

The request was successful.

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

I request a copy of the Non Employment Income Data Matching (NEIDM) project's program protocol that is mentioned in the Commonwealth Gazette dated August 2016. I quote:

The Australian Government Department of Human Services

NOTICE OF A DATA MATCHING PROJECT

The Non Employment Income Data Matching (NEIDM) project is a data matching process which will enable the Department of Human Services (department) to match income data it collects from customers with tax return related data reported to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The Taxation Administration Act 1953 authorises the ATO to provide relevant data to the department.

The NEIDM project will assist the department to identify social welfare recipients who may not have disclosed income and assets to the department. Data received from the ATO will be electronically matched with certain departmental records to identify non-compliance with income or other reporting obligations.

The department expects to match each of the approximately 7 million unique records held in its Centrelink database. Based on non-compliance criteria, the department anticipates it will examine approximately 20,000 records in the first phase of the project.

The department will use customers’ information in the context of the NEIDM project to:
- verify the information reported to it by customers;
- identify social welfare recipients who may not have disclosed income to the department;
- match and validate the Tax Return and the Pay As You Go data sets;
- identify discrepancies in the income declared to the department by the customer; and
- consider whether the department will initiate relevant compliance action in relation to a particular customer (including debt recovery or a referral to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions).

The class of people who may be affected by the NEIDM project will include welfare recipients who have lodged a Tax Return with the ATO during 2011 to 2014.

The department’s NEIDM project has been informed by the Office of the Australian Commissioner’s Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration. Those Guidelines include standards for data matching activities to protect the privacy of individuals. The department has prepared a program protocol which describes the NEIDM project, in accordance with those Guidelines. Copies of the protocol are available from:

Case Selection Section
Level 2
Louisa Lawson Building
25 Cowlishaw Street
Greenway ACT 2900

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please see the attached correspondence in relation to your freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

 

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX28337 Communication Consultation notification.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please see the attached correspondence in relation to your freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards

 

 

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

This is a curious response.

A notice of this data matching project was published in the Gazette (https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C... and the notice very clearly states that a copy of this protocol is available from a physical Department building.

This strongly suggests that this protocol is available to a member of the public if they were to physically attend the site.

Are you suggesting that if a person were to physically arrive at
Case Selection Section
Level 2
Louisa Lawson Building
25 Cowlishaw Street
Greenway ACT 2900

that they would need to wait 30 days while you consult with third parties?

Why was the offer to provide a copy of the protocol made in the Gazette if it possibly contains information that should not be available to the general public?

I note that the ATO publish their data matching protocols online: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Gen/Data-... which is in accordance with the OAIC guidelines on data matching protocols: https://www.oaic.gov.au/agencies-and-org...

Does DHS not follow these guidelines?

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

The applicant mentions that the response is "curious". To me, it is also an interesting response from a legal viewpoint. I ask "Does the response give a reviewable decision to the applicant?" I do not know the correct answer to this question but I have an argument. After the argument, I make a suggestion.

Here is the argument. An "access refusal decision" is reviewable. Section 53A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) explains the meaning of "access refusal decision". It says "An access refusal decision is any of the following decisions: ... (d) a decision to defer the provision of access to a document
(other than a document covered by paragraph 21(1)(d)". The question is now whether the agency has made a decision to defer the provision of access to a document, or have they just deferred a decision? I think (but you must remember that the girl is not yet a lawyer) that it is a decision and also the decision is to defer access until the agency knows the result of the consultation. So in my opinion this response from the agency gives an access refusal decision and is reviewable; therefore the applicant can request an internal review.

Now I have said my argument, I do not think that I would ask for an internal review but this is only because (i) the agency might argue this is not an access refusal decision and then the applicant has to write more responses, (ii) the agency might review the decision (to defer access) but then refuse access and then there would be another request for review. For me it would be too much trouble but I think that the legal matter is interesting anyway.

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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

No, a decision has not yet been made. This is a notification that the time to make a decision has been extended because DHS is consulting with third parties, as per s27 of the FOI Act: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/c...

Whether it is reasonable that DHS believes the third party/parties "might reasonably wish to make a contention (the exemption contention)" is a different question.

It might just be a delaying tactic so DHS can avoid releasing any information for as long as possible.

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI.LEGAL.TEAM,

Your response to this Freedom of Information request is now overdue.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Dear Mr Warren

 

Thank you for your email.

 

I apologise for our delay in providing a decision to you. Although the
department is deemed to have refused your request by operation of the FOI
Act, we are nevertheless working to provide you with a decision as soon as
possible.

 

Kind regards

 

 

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

 

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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 'Non Employment Income Data Matching (NEIDM) Project program protocol'.

This document was supposedly publicly available, according to a notice published in the Government Gazette. And yet the Department said it needed to consult with third parties about providing access to this allegedly publicly available document.

I want to know:

- Why was a notice placed in the Government Gazette alleging this document was publicly available if it was not?
- Why did the Department need to consult with third parties over a document that was allegedly publicly available?
- Why did the Department fail to provide a decision within the timeframe specified by the FOI Act? This created a deemed refused decision.
- Is the document publicly available, or not?
- If not, why not?

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

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX28337 Decision Document final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please see the attached correspondence in relation to your freedom of
information request.

 

Kind regards

 

Freedom of Information Team
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

Email: [1][email address]

[2]cid:image002.png@01CE578F.EEB98AC0

 

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