Request for an extension of time, sent to the OAIC from the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, to process FOI-2022-10124

The request was partially successful.

Dear Office of the Australian Information Commissioner,

On 16 October 2022, I made an FOI request to the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (OCO). I requested access to documents provided by a complainant to the OCO identifying the grounds upon which they complained that a PID investigation conducted by Ms Kate McMullan of the Australian Public Service Commission was deficient.

The FOI request can be accessed here:

https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

On 27 October 2022, David, a Legal Officer from the Legal Team of the OCO, acknowledged receipt of the FOI request. The OCO's reference is FOI-2022-10124. David's acknowledgement can be accessed here:

https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

On 12 November 2022, Steven, a Senior Legal Officer from the Legal Team of the OCO wrote requested that I agree to an extension of time, until 29 November 2022, to process my FOI request because the OCO "is required to consult with another agency and with stakeholders within the Office to locate any documents within the scope of your request." Steven's email to me can be accessed here:

https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

On 14 November 2022, I wrote to Steven, noting that there I was confused by his email of 12 November 2022. I noted the following:

"Thank you for your email.

In your email you note that the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the Office) needs a further 14 days to deal with my FOI request because the Office is required to consult with another agency and with stakeholders within the Office to locate any documents within the scope of your request.

I'm somewhat confused by the comment because I do not understand how it is that you could have formed the view that the decision maker in the Office has an obligation to consult with stakeholders in another agency if documents within the scope of my FOI request still need to be located.

Would you mind clarifying:

a) the provision under which you think the Office must consult with stakeholders in another agency; and
b) if the documents within the scope of my request have been identified and, if not, why not?

Once I am provided with answers (and assuming the answers are provided within the 30 day limit to process my FOI request), I will gladly give consideration to the appropriateness of an agreement to an extension of time under s 15AA of the FOI Act."

My email to Steven, dated 14 November 2022, can be accessed here:

https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

On 15 November 2022, Steven wrote to me, noting:

"I formed the preliminary view that consultation may be required of the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) based on the nature of your request and the description and type of documents sought.

As you may be aware, there is no provision in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) requiring us to consult with another Commonwealth agency. However, if the author of the document is another agency we would invariably consult to seek their views. I understand this PID complaint was lodged with APSC. As you may know, consultation may occur under s 26A (Commonwealth-state relations), s 27 (business documents) and s 27A (documents affecting personal privacy). For abundant caution, we invariably seek the views of our Office's business lines for sensitive documents.

The FOI decision maker will, however, make the decision independently applying the relevant facts, law and OAIC policy.

I do anticipate providing you with a decision prior to 29 November 2022 in any case. I would be grateful if you could indicate your agreement to an extension of time."

Steven's email of 15 November 2022 can be accessed here:

https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

On 15 November 2022, I replied to Steven's email of 15 November 2022 noting:

"I will not agree to an extension of time but, assuming that I am not provided with a lawful decision today, I will wait until the end of 29 November 2022 before I lodge an IC review application so that you are able to provide whatever decision it is that you propose to provide."

My response to Steven, dated 15 November 2022, can be accessed here:

https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

I would like to know if officials in the OCO have sought an extension of time from the OAIC.

Under the FOI Act, I request access to any and all correspondence sent from or received by staff in the OAIC in relation to a request for an extension of time, on the part of the OCO, to process my FOI request of 16 October 2022 (OCO reference FOI-2022-10124).

Please send the requested documents to me by return email.

Yours faithfully,

Stephanie

OAIC - Legal, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

5 Attachments

Our reference: FOIREQ22/00405

Dear Stephanie

Freedom of Information request

I refer to your request for access to documents made under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act).

You FOI request was received by the Office of the Australian Information
Commissioner (OAIC) on 21 November 2022. This means that a decision on
your FOI request is currently due on 21 December 2022. 

Scope of your request

Your FOI request was made in the following terms:

‘I would like to know if officials in the OCO have sought an extension of
time from the OAIC.

Under the FOI Act, I request access to any and all correspondence sent
from or received by staff in the OAIC in relation to a request for an
extension of time, on the part of the OCO, to process my FOI request of 16
October 2022 (OCO reference FOI-2022-10124).’

In order to process your request as efficiently as possible, I will
exclude duplicates and early parts of email streams that are captured in
later email streams from the scope of this request, unless you advise me
otherwise.

We will not identify you as the FOI applicant during any consultation
process, unless we seek your permission. However, documents that are
within the scope of your request that we may need to consult third parties
about may contain your personal information.

Timeframes for dealing with your request

Section 15 of the FOI Act requires the OAIC to process your request no
later than 30 days after the day we receive it. However, section 15(6) of
the FOI Act allows us a further 30 days in situations where we need to
consult with third parties about certain information, such as business
documents or documents affecting their personal privacy.

The current decision due date for your request is 21 December 2022.  We
will advise you if this timeframe is otherwise extended.

Disclosure Log

Documents released under the FOI Act may be published online on our
disclosure log, unless they contain personal or business information that
would be unreasonable to publish.

If you would like to discuss your FOI request, please contact me on my
contact details set out below.

Kind regards

 

Molly

 

[1]O A I C logo   Molly Cooke | Lawyer

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Information Commissioner

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OAIC - Legal, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

9 Attachments

OAIC ref: FOIREQ22/00405

 

Dear Stephanie

 

Please find attached decision, schedule and documents in relation to the
above FOI request.

 

Kind regards

 

Molly

 

[1]O A I C logo   Molly Cooke | Lawyer

Legal Services

Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner

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

+61 2 9942 4296  |
[3][email address]
[7]Subscribe [8]Subscribe to
[4]Facebook | [5]LinkedIn | [6]Twitter |   icon Information
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Notice:

The information contained in this email message and any attached files may
be confidential information, and may also be the subject of legal
professional privilege. If you are not the intended recipient any use,
disclosure or copying of this email is unauthorised. If you received this
email in error, please notify the sender by contacting the department's
switchboard on 1300 488 064 during business hours (8:30am - 5pm Canberra
time) and delete all copies of this transmission together with any
attachments.

References

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