Request for correspondence issued under s 7A of the Ombudsman Act, and for other correspondence and Senate estimates briefs

The request was partially successful.

Dear Australian Public Service Commission,

I refer to Document 29 published on the Right to Know website at https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s....

In Document 29, the following is noted:

"It was an anonymous complaint that was transferred from the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020. The matter was investigated by Kate McMullen and finalised on 9 December 2020. A copy of the redacted report was sent to the discloser on 23 December 2020."

"The Commonwealth Ombudsman contacted the APSC on 20 December 2021 regarding the APSC’s handling of this [redacted]. The Ombudsman is conducting a preliminary inquiry under section 7A of the Ombudsman Act to determine whether or not conduct an investigation."

"[Redacted] provided the requested documents to the Ombudsman on 14 January 2022. The Ombudsman advised that it will take some time to work through the documents and will contact us again in mid-February."

Under section 7A of the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman may conduct preliminary investigations. Under subsection 7A(1), for the purpose of conducting a preliminary investigation, the Ombudsman may make inquiries of the principal officer of the Department or prescribed authority or, if an arrangement with the principal officer of the Department or authority is in force under subsection (2), of such officers as are referred to in the arrangement.

Please provide any correspondence sent on 20 December 2021 from the Ombudsman to the APSC.

Please also provide a copy of any notice or correspondence transferring the anonymous complaint from the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020.

Please also provide any senate estimates briefing materials (hot briefs or otherwise) prepared for Mr Woolcott for additional estimates in February 2022.

Yours faithfully,

Saraswati

FOI, Australian Public Service Commission

5 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Applicant

 

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is writing to acknowledge
receipt of your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI
Act).

 

The timeframe for responding to your request is 30 days from the date of
receipt. This timeframe may be extended in certain circumstances. You will
be notified if these circumstances arise and the timeframe is extended.

 

Regards

 

FOI OFFICER

Legal Services

 

Australian Public Service Commission

Level 4, B Block, Treasury Building, Parkes Place West, PARKES ACT 2600
GPO Box 3176 CANBERRA ACT 2601

 

t: 02 6202 3500  w: [1]www.apsc.gov.au        

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delete it (including any copies) and notify the sender. Please consult
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FOI, Australian Public Service Commission

10 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Applicant

 

Reference is made to the attached.

 

Regards

 

FOI OFFICER

Legal Services

 

Australian Public Service Commission

Level 4, B Block, Treasury Building, Parkes Place West, PARKES ACT 2600
GPO Box 3176 CANBERRA ACT 2601

 

t: 02 6202 3500  w: [1]www.apsc.gov.au        

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This email and any attachments may contain confidential or legally
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been sent in error. If you have received this email in error, please
delete it (including any copies) and notify the sender. Please consult
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From: FOI <[email address]>
Sent: Tuesday, 29 March 2022 11:17 AM
To: Saraswati <[FOI #8663 email]>
Cc: FOI <[email address]>
Subject: 5066 Acknowledgement [SEC=OFFICIAL]

 

OFFICIAL

Dear Applicant

 

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is writing to acknowledge
receipt of your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI
Act).

 

The timeframe for responding to your request is 30 days from the date of
receipt. This timeframe may be extended in certain circumstances. You will
be notified if these circumstances arise and the timeframe is extended.

 

Regards

 

FOI OFFICER

Legal Services

 

Australian Public Service Commission

Level 4, B Block, Treasury Building, Parkes Place West, PARKES ACT 2600
GPO Box 3176 CANBERRA ACT 2601

 

t: 02 6202 3500  w: [5]www.apsc.gov.au        

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This email and any attachments may contain confidential or legally
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been sent in error. If you have received this email in error, please
delete it (including any copies) and notify the sender. Please consult
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Dear Ms Strangio,

Thank you for your decision. Unfortunately I do not agree with all of your reasons.

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Australian Public Service Commission's handling of my FOI request 'Request for correspondence issued under s 7A of the Ombudsman Act, and for other correspondence and Senate estimates briefs'.

Document 1

In your reasons, you refuse access in full to document 1. You claim that "Document 1 concerns a current, ongoing, unfinalised investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman".

That is false. Document 1 does not concern a current, ongoing or unfinalised investigation. Document 1 concerns a finalised inquiry under s 7A of the Ombudsman Act. The preliminary inquiry under section 7A has been finalised because, as you note, there is now an investigation under s 8 of the Ombudsman Act 1976. If the preliminary inquiry were current, ongoing, unfinalised, then there would be an extant inquiry under s 7A, not an investigation under s 8 of the Ombudsman Act. It is public information that an investigation into Ms Kate McMullen's PID investigation, which related to allegations of misconduct by senior staff members in the Federal Court, is now the subject of a category 4 investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman (see Spotlight shines back on watchdog, which was published on page 3 on the Australian on 29 March 2022).

Because your premise is false, you conclusion is affected by that false premise.

You also claim that the document 1 should not be disclosed because disclosure would discourage complainants from contacting the Ombudsman out of concern that it is not possible to keep relevant investigation information confidential. But it was the APSC that disclosed the existence of that preliminary inquiry on 22 March 2022 (see https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/q...). In document 29, the following was noted:

"It was an anonymous complaint that was transferred from the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020. The matter was investigated by Kate McMullen and finalised on 9 December 2020. A copy of the redacted report was sent to the discloser on 23 December 2020."

"The Commonwealth Ombudsman contacted the APSC on 20 December 2021 regarding the APSC’s handling of this [redacted]. The Ombudsman is conducting a preliminary inquiry under section 7A of the Ombudsman Act to determine whether or not conduct an investigation."

"[Redacted] provided the requested documents to the Ombudsman on 14 January 2022. The Ombudsman advised that it will take some time to work through the documents and will contact us again in mid-February."

Those passages were adverted to by the journalist at the Australian who published the article on 29 March 2022.

Why would the APSC have disclosed that information if it would be prejudicial? I am not convinced that your reasons have been provided in good faith.

You also claim that "disclosure of the relevant document would discourage agencies or members of the public from providing information to the Ombudsman’s office in relation to an investigation." How could it? All that email sets out is that a preliminary inquiry is to take place under s 7A of the Ombudsman Act. The Act sets out who the email will be sent to. The email was sent to the principal officer of the APSC, Mr Peter Woolcott. It was sent on 20 December 2021. It set out the fact that an preliminary inquiry was to take place into allegations that the PID investigation conducted by Ms McMullen was inadequate. That is all known information. That information is all over this website. It was published in the Australian. There is no prejudice to granting access to that document because I know, and most interested people who frequent this site know, what it is about.

Document 2

Thank you for providing document 2. I am content with its state.

Document 3

Thank you for providing the letter from the Ombudsman to Mr Woolcott allocating the public interest disclosure to the APSC for investigation. It is valuable knowing that the Ombudsman received the internal PID and thought it serious enough to allocate to the APSC rather than to the home agency under the PID Act.

Ordinarily, the Ombudsman will not allocate PIDs to the APSC unless they involve allegations against an agency head. I take it, based on the content set out in the articles in the Australian, that the allegations were made against Sia Lagos.

I do take exception to the redactions in that document. The allegations set out in the Document 3 are probably already public information.

It is well known that a female was promoted to the position of a national registrar where she did not have essential qualifications for the role, while others did. Her name has been disclosed (see https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/u...).

It is well known that a male was promoted to the position of a national registrar where he did not have essential qualifications even though there were much better qualified candidates, who were overlooked.

It is well known that the management of the Federal Court used independent flexibility arrangements to get around the capped number of SES positions available to the Federal Court Statutory Agency. It is also well known that Kate McMullen made a fatal error of law when she claimed that it was legally permissible to broadband the National Judicial Registrar positions across the "Legal 2" and "SES1" classification bands.

It is public information, thanks to First Assistant Commissioner Hetherington and Marcus, that Murray Belcher was selected to fill an SES1 National Judicial Registar & District Registrar - QLD role by Sia Lagos, David Pringle and Andrea Jarratt (see https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s...). It is also public information that Kerryn Vine Camp certified that Mr Belcher's promotion to the Senior Executive Service complied with the Public Service Act and the Commissioner's Directions (https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r...). It is also well known that Mr Warwick Soden, the former CEO of the Federal Court, advised Justice Greenwood that the Ms Vine Camp had threatened to veto Mr Belcher's promotion and, as a result, he would reclassify the position from SES1 to something less than an SES1 classification to get around that veto. Of course, no such veto power exists and Mr Soden's story does not add up; Mr Soden claimed the reclassify the role so that the before any promotion could take effect, although it is plainly the case that Mr Belcher was selected by Ms Lagos, Mr Pringle and Ms Jarratt for promotion, and that Ms Vine Camp certified that promotion. It's all very fishy.

It is also now public information that Mr Russell Trott, the National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - WA was selected for promotion to an SES Band 1 position by Sia Lagos, David Pringle and Andrea Jarratt (see https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s...). Ms Vine Camp certified that the selection process that Mr Trott was the subject of complied with the Public Service Act and the Commissioner's Directions (https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r...). Nonetheless, Mr Trott's name does not appear on the list of SES employees in the Federal Court of Australia Statutory Agency that is published in documents on the Federal Court of Australia's disclosure log (see PA2925-06/9 at https://fedcourt.gov.au/disclosurelog).

For these reasons, the redactions are probably not appropriate because the information that is being withheld is publicly accessible and, in some cases, well known.

Document 4

Thank you for providing document 4.

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,

Saraswati

FOI, Australian Public Service Commission

5 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Applicant

 

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is writing to acknowledge
receipt of your request for internal review under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

 

The timeframe for responding to your internal review request is 30 days
from the date of receipt. This timeframe for internal review may be
extended in very limited circumstances. You will be notified if these
circumstances arise and the timeframe is extended.

 

Regards

 

FOI OFFICER

Legal Services

 

Australian Public Service Commission

Level 4, B Block, Treasury Building, Parkes Place West, PARKES ACT 2600
GPO Box 3176 CANBERRA ACT 2601

 

t: 02 6202 3500  w: [1]www.apsc.gov.au        

[2]three hexagons[3]twitter icon [4]facebook
icon                          

 

 

 

 

This email and any attachments may contain confidential or legally
privileged information, and neither are waived or lost if the email has
been sent in error. If you have received this email in error, please
delete it (including any copies) and notify the sender. Please consult
with APSC Legal Services before using disclosing any part of this email or
attachments to a third party.

 

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FOI, Australian Public Service Commission

6 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Applicant

 

Please find attached a decision notice for your internal review request.

 

Kind regards

 

 

FOI OFFICER

Legal Services

 

Australian Public Service Commission

Level 4, B Block, Treasury Building, Parkes Place West, PARKES ACT 2600
GPO Box 3176 CANBERRA ACT 2601

 

t: 02 6202 3500  w: [1]www.apsc.gov.au        

[2]three hexagons[3]twitter icon [4]facebook
icon                          

 

 

 

 

This email and any attachments may contain confidential or legally
privileged information, and neither are waived or lost if the email has
been sent in error. If you have received this email in error, please
delete it (including any copies) and notify the sender. Please consult
with APSC Legal Services before using disclosing any part of this email or
attachments to a third party.

 

 

 

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Australian Public Service Commission

 
 
  [1]Office of the Australian Information Reference Code:  
Commissioner ICR_10-49290556-2659
 

 
You submitted a form called: FOI Review_
 
Your form reference code is: ICR_10-49290556-2659

To check the progress of your submission and/or confirm it has been
received you should contact the agency that provides the form. These
details are displayed below.
 
 
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
[2]http://www.oaic.gov.au | [3]1300 363 992 | [4][email address]
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
 
 
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References

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4. mailto:[email address]

Australian Public Service Commission

 
 
  [1]Office of the Australian Information Reference Code:  
Commissioner ICR_10-49290556-2659
 

 
You submitted a form called: FOI Review_
 
Your form reference code is: ICR_10-49290556-2659

To check the progress of your submission and/or confirm it has been
received you should contact the agency that provides the form. These
details are displayed below.
 
 
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
[2]http://www.oaic.gov.au | [3]1300 363 992 | [4][email address]
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
 
 
Note: Please do not reply to this auto-generated email.
 

References

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2. http://www.oaic.gov.au/
3. file:///tmp/tel:1300 363 992
4. mailto:[email address]

Australian Public Service Commission

1 Attachment

Our reference: MR22/00962

 

By email: [FOI #8663 email]

Receipt of your IC review application  

Thank you for your application for Information Commissioner Review (IC
review).

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is
considering your application.

If you wish to advise the OAIC of any changes to your circumstances,
including your contact details or if your FOI request has been resolved,
please write to [email address] and quote MR22/00962.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information Regulatory Group

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

 

 

 

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