Records relating to the amount of expenditure on seconded lawyers and counsel and internal legal services

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.

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

On 3 December 2021 I made an FOI request (LEX 46947) to Veterans Affairs seeking access to external legal expenditure and internal legal expenditure details, given the Department commenced publishing this information in its Annual Reports from FY 2019/20 (FY 2019/20 pp.78-80 and FY 2020/21 pp. 95-97), for the financial years 2011-2021.

The first action Veterans took was to seek a 30 day extension because of three days of public holidays within the processing period. The second was to apply to the OAIC for a 30 day extension.

This was followed by what was an effective access refusal decision, given the decision only gave access to some heavily edited documents that were for documents not in scope (being OLSC statutory reporting, not external legal expenditure and internal legal expenditure records as reported in the Annual Reports referred to).

A query as to why Veterans was able to publish this information in its FY2019/20 and FY 2020/21 reports, but had claimed these documents could not be found or do not exist, even for FY2019/20 and FY 2020/21 periods, received no response until over a month later, and only after making request to the Secretary's office for response.

An FOI request (FOI 47714) for records relating to this request was made on 2 February and received partial access to discussions between Information Law and the Finance Manager of the General Counsel Division on 19 January demonstrated Veterans' did however hold this information, contrary to the claims made in the decision that refused access.

Because Veterans deliberately amended the scope to be limited to OLSC statutory reporting, despite being aware the scope was not limited to that, I will use the exact words of the reporting in the FY2019/20 and FY 2020/21 Annual Reports.

I request the cost of expenditure and number of matters briefed to external legal services for the financial years 2011-2021, by financial year, giving costs incurred (each identified seperately) from external solicitors briefed, seconded lawyers, disbursements to engaged solicitors/seconded lawyers/counsel, costs paid to solicitors of other parties, and costs paid for disbursements of other parties, along with a total of external legal expenditure (Table 13 in the FY 2020/21 Annual Report provides a guide).

I also request the cost of expenditure Veterans spent on direct and indirect internal legal services, and the number of full-time equivalent ongoing APS staff employed to provide direct and indirect internal legal services for Veterans for the financial years 2011-2021.

I also request copy of the email, including header detail and its metadata, of the email (excluding my email address) Veterans claims to have sent me on 3 February 2022 (that it referred to in its email to me of Monday 7 March 2022).

Ciao,

Julie

INFORMATION.ACCESS, Department of Veterans' Affairs

1 Attachment

Dear Julie,

I refer to your FOI request, received by the Department of Veterans’
Affairs (the department) on 9 March 2022, for access under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) to the following:

 

“I request the cost of expenditure and number of matters briefed to
external legal services for the financial years 2011-2021, by financial
year, giving costs incurred (each identified seperately) from external
solicitors briefed, seconded lawyers, disbursements to engaged
solicitors/seconded lawyers/counsel, costs paid to solicitors of other
parties, and costs paid for disbursements of other parties, along with a
total of external legal expenditure (Table 13 in the FY 2020/21 Annual
Report provides a guide).
I also request the cost of expenditure Veterans spent on direct and
indirect internal legal services, and the number of full-time equivalent
ongoing APS staff employed to provide direct and indirect internal legal
services for Veterans for the financial years 2011-2021.
I also request copy of the email, including header detail and its
metadata, of the email (excluding my email address) Veterans claims to
have sent me on 3 February 2022 (that it referred to in its email to me of
Monday 7 March 2022).”

 

Your request was received by the department on 9 March 2022 and the 30
day statutory period for processing your request commenced from the day
after that date. The period of 30 days may be extended if we need to
consult third parties or for other reasons permitted under the FOI Act. We
will advise you if this happens.

 

The department will advise you if a charge is payable to process your
request and the amount of any such charge as soon as practicable. No
charge is payable for providing a person with their own personal
information.

 

Your address

 

The FOI Act requires that you provide us with an address that we can send
notices to. You have advised your address is Email:
[1][FOI #8575 email] . Unless you tell us
otherwise, we will send all notices and correspondence to this address.

 

Disclosure log

 

Information released under the FOI Act may be published on a disclosure
log on our website, subject to certain exceptions. These exceptions
include where publication of personal, business, professional or
commercial information would be unreasonable.

 

Exclusion of employee details

 

To the extent the department has documents in its possession that fall
within the scope of your request, we will treat the names, signatures,
position titles and direct contact details of Commonwealth employees as
irrelevant in accordance with section 22 of the FOI Act, unless you tell
us otherwise by 21 March 2022.

 

Further assistance

 

If you have any questions, please contact us using the following details:

 

Post:     Information Access Unit

Client Access and Rehabilitation Branch

GPO Box 9998 BRISBANE  QLD   4001

Email:   [2][DVA request email]

 

Yours sincerely

Mythili (Position No. 62244037)

Registration Officer

Information Access Unit

Client Access and Rehabilitation Branch

[3]cid:image001.png@01D8347F.2C94A660

 

 

15 March 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #8575 email]
2. mailto:[DVA request email]

Dear INFORMATION.ACCESS,

The Information Commissioner had previously issued guidance to agencies stating it cannot rely on presumed consent to what is irrelevant to the scope of the FOI request, and I do not consent to the exclusion of the names of Commonwealth officials or their position titles.

Yours sincerely,

Julie

Julie left an annotation ()

Looks like this decision is deemed now.

Eoin McMahon,

6 Attachments

Dear Applicant and FOI Contact Officer,

 

Please see attached decision regarding the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
application for an extension of time to process FOI request LEX 48448.

Kind regards,

 

 

[1][IMG]   Eoin McMahon  |  Review Adviser

Investigations and Compliance

Freedom of Information
Regulatory Group

Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner

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

+61 2 9284 9716  | 
[3][email address]
[7]Subscribe [8]Subscribe to
[4]Facebook | [5]LinkedIn | [6]Twitter |   icon Information
Matters

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. https://www.oaic.gov.au/
2. https://aus01.safelinks.protection.outlo...
3. mailto:[email address]
4. https://aus01.safelinks.protection.outlo...
5. https://aus01.safelinks.protection.outlo...
6. https://aus01.safelinks.protection.outlo...
8. https://www.oaic.gov.au/updates/sign-up/

Dear Eoin McMahon,

It is disappointing to see yet another last minute abuse of s 15AB, particularly given the lack of transparency.

Please provide copy of the s 15AB EoT application, as Veterans Affairs has a history of making false and misleading claims given the OAIC never checks or authenticates any claim made by FOI agencies when making such decisions.

Ciao

Julie

Eoin McMahon,

1 Attachment

Dear Julie,

Please find attached a copy of the Department of Veterans' Affairs application form as requested.

Kind regards,

Eoin McMahon | Review Adviser
Investigations and Compliance
Freedom of Information Regulatory Group
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001 | oaic.gov.au
+61 2 9284 9716 | [email address]

|

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Subscribe to Information Matters

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INFORMATION.ACCESS, Department of Veterans' Affairs

3 Attachments

You have received a secure message from the Department of Veterans'
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link and this secure message.
[2]Help
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Secured by Proofpoint Encryption, Copyright © 2009-2021 Proofpoint, Inc.
All rights reserved.

References

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2. http://www.dva.gov.au/site-help/sensitiv...

Verity Pane left an annotation ()

Well nice to know I'm not the only one DVA are playing this shell game with, by giving access in a manner other than applied for

Not so good to learn DVA are wholly intent on subverting the FOI Act.

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

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

Where an applicant is not provided access to notices in the form requested by the applicant the applicant can seek internal review (s 53A) (ICG 3.181).

I did not give consent to receive notices via a third party encryption platform. This was not the form of access given for such notices in my FOI request (s 20(2)) and Veterans Affairs has not satisfied s 20(3) to provide access in such an alternative manner.

Notably, an IR is a fresh decision and not limited to the above ground, so the IR must be made afresh (especially as I have not been provided the decision).

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

Yours faithfully,

Julie

Department of Veterans' Affairs

Please use this validation code to complete your registration: 383469

Note: This code will expire in 30 minutes.

Dear INFORMATION.ACCESS,

My internal review request said:

I did not give consent to receive notices via a third party encryption platform. This was not the form of access given for such notices in my FOI request (s 20(2)) and Veterans Affairs has not satisfied s 20(3) to provide access in such an alternative manner.

As my internal review request was made on 3 May a decision by another delegate was required to be given directly to me by 2 June.

I have received no such decision, with none published here at Right to Know.

Veterans Affairs should remedy this breach as you still remain obligated to provide one, even though the internal review is now deemed,

Ciao

Julie

Dear INFORMATION.ACCESS,

After improperly failing to publish the 1.1MB LEX 48448 decision and its 1.4MB document here on Right to Know, in response to my 9 March foi request, and then compounding that bad faith conduct by ignoring the internal review request made for failing to do so, I finally receive copy of these documents not from DVA but the OAIC five months later.

Such unethical conduct to artificially delay public access to this foi decision and its document is unexcusable.

As the LEX 48448 Statement of Reasons document and its related document released are now part of the disclosure log, I administratively request copy of these two documents here on Right to Know (not through a dropbox or other third party mechanism that prevents access) so that any interested member of the public can view them without having to seek the prior approval of DVA (an unnecessary and unlawful barrier to public access of official information).

Ciao

Julie

INFORMATION.ACCESS, Department of Veterans' Affairs

1 Attachment

Dear Julie,

 

Thank you for sending in the request that has now been registered under
reference LEX 51369.

 

Please accept this as the formal acknowledgement and copies of relevant
documents will be sent to you in due course.

 

Contacting you about your request

 

We will contact you using the email address you have provided. Please
advise if you would prefer us to use an alternative means of contact.  

 

If you have any questions, please contact us using the following details:

 

Post:    Information Access Unit

Client Access and Rehabilitation Branch

GPO Box 9998 BRISBANE QLD   4001

Email: [1][DVA request email]

 

Regards

 

 

Kevin Position No:   62210939

Registration Officer

Information Access Unit

Client Access and Rehabilitation Branch

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

P Please consider the environment before printing this email

 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DVA request email]

Dear INFORMATION.ACCESS,

Still waiting for that decision and released documents to be sent to my address for notices given.

There is no power in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 that allows Veterans Affairs to substitute, vary or replace that address for notices with an another.

Ciao

Julie

INFORMATION.ACCESS, Department of Veterans' Affairs

Dear Julie,

 

In your request under LEX 51369 you state:

 

“As the LEX 48448 Statement of Reasons document and its related document
released are now part of the disclosure log”

 

As per the original decision letter sent to you via email on 29 April
2022. The decision was not published on the disclosure log.

 

Furthermore, LEX 48448 has since been revised under section 55G. This
decision is LEX 51340, first name redactions were removed in this
revision.

 

LEX 51340 is also not being published on the disclosure log.

 

While the FOI Act provides an applicant with the right to access documents
in a requested form, it does not set out requirements for the method of
delivery. As the documents in scope of your request were delivered to your
email address ([1][FOI #8575 email]) on the 29
April 2022 at 4:52pm the department has met its obligations.

 

On this basis, the Department will not process your admin access request
as the documents have already been supplied to you.

 

Kind regards

 

 

Brett (Position Number 62258141)

Assistant Director

Information Access Unit

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

 

“DVA is committed to supporting veterans and their families.  We all
deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect.  We ask that you treat us
the same way”. 

 

DVA has arrangements in place for staff to work at home as much as
possible to contribute to the Nation’s agenda to minimise social
interaction and support social distancing. To assist us it would be
appreciated if you could communicate with me via email using this address
[email address]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Department of Veterans' Affairs

Please use this validation code to complete your registration: 213933

Note: This code will expire in 30 minutes.

OAIC - FOI DR,

2 Attachments

 

 

Dear Julie

On 14 July 2022
the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (the OAIC) notified
the department that you had requested that the Information
Commissioner (IC) review the Department’s decision LEX 48448 made on 29
April 2022 under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act).

Section 55G(1)(a) of the FOI Act provides that after an application
is made to the IC for review, an agency or minister may (at any time
during the IC review) revoke or vary an access refusal decision
to favour the applicant by giving access to a
document in accordance with the request. 
 
Section
55G(2) of the FOI Act provides that an agency must notify the IC of the new decision (section
55G(2)(a)) and the revised decision will be the decision
under review (section 55G(2)(b)). 

 

The attached decision is made under 55G(1)(a) of the FOI Act in relation
to IC Review MR22/00930. We have copied the OAIC to this correspondence in
accordance with our obligations under s 55G(2)(a).

regards,

 

 

 

Stella

Position Number: 62331110

Executive Director

Information Access Unit

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

 

 

 

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