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

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

Dear Commonwealth Ombudsman,

Part A

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.

Under the FOI Act, please provide any correspondence sent on 20 December 2021 from the Ombudsman to the APSC.

B

Under the FOI Act, please provide the notice or correspondence transferring the anonymous public interest disclosure from the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020.

The relevant document commences accordingly:

"Mr Peter Woolcott AO
Commissioner
Australian Public Service Commission

By email to:
[Redacted]
Authorised Officer
PID (at symbol) apsc.gov.au

Dear Mr Woolcott

Notification of allocation – section 44(1) of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013

I am writing to notify you of our decision to allocate an internal public interest disclosure to the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) for handling under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (the PID Act).

On 7 May 2020, an Authorised Officer of the APSC consented to the allocation.
Please note that the information below is based solely on that provided by the discloser and was assessed by this Office under section 26 of the PID Act as an internal public interest disclosure.

It is the responsibility of your agency to determine how this matter will be handled from this point. However we note that this allocation decision has been made with reference to the broad powers available to consider the matter by virtue of an allocation under the PID Act and under the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act) (in particular s 41(2)(o))."

C

Under the FOI Act, please provide any senate estimates briefing materials (hot pocket briefs or otherwise) prepared for the Commonwealth Ombudsman (or acting Commonwealth Ombudsman) for additional estimates in February 2022 and for budget estimates in April 2022.

Yours faithfully,

Saraswati

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL

 

OFFICIAL

 

Our ref: FOI-2022-10066

 

Dear Saraswati,

 

Freedom of Information request – Acknowledgment

I acknowledge receipt of your correspondence dated 15 June 2022, in which
you requested access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act
1982 (FOI Act). Your request for documents was framed in the following
way:

Part A

… Under the FOI Act, please provide any correspondence sent on 20 December
2021 from the Ombudsman to the APSC.

 

B

… Under the FOI Act, please provide the notice or correspondence
transferring the anonymous public interest disclosure from the
Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020.

 

C

… Under the FOI Act, please provide any senate estimates briefing
materials (hot pocket briefs or otherwise) prepared for the Commonwealth
Ombudsman (or acting Commonwealth Ombudsman) for additional estimates in
February 2022 and for budget estimates in April 2022.

 

Timeframes

You should expect a decision from us within 30 days from the date we
received your FOI request. This 30 day period may be extended if we need
to consult third parties, impose a charge (a fee for processing your
request) or for other reasons. We will let you know if this happens.

If you have any questions, you may contact me via email at
[1][email address] or by using the contact details in
the footer of this email.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Sine Dellit

Senior Legal officer

Legal team

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Proud to be working on the lands of Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples

Email: [2][email address]
Website: [3]ombudsman.gov.au

 

[4]ombudsman

Influencing systemic improvement in public administration

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the Traditional
Owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

 

 

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional
owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/
4. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL

 

 

Dear Saraswati,

 

I refer to your FOI request of 15 June 2022, for which a decision is
currently due on 15 July 2022.

 

We will be providing you with a decision for Parts A and B of your request
on 15 July 2022.

 

Part C of your request is:

 

… Under the FOI Act, please provide any senate estimates briefing
materials (hot pocket briefs or otherwise) prepared for the Commonwealth
Ombudsman (or acting Commonwealth Ombudsman) for additional estimates in
February 2022 and for budget estimates in April 2022.

 

We have interpreted this part of your request to be for all the senate
briefing materials for that time period, not those limited to the Public
Interest Disclosure Functions of our Office.

We are progressing with processing this part of your request. We have
identified approximately 60 documents (not including duplicates) that fall
within the scope of your request. Given the nature of the information in
the documents (and attachments) we are required to extensively consult
within our Office when assessing these documents for release. The
processing of this part of your request is a resource intensive,
time-consuming task for our small FOI team to process.

Under s 15AA of the FOI Act, the time for processing your application may
be extended up to 30 days with your agreement. We ask that you consent to
an extension of 30 days to allow us to complete processing Part C of your
request, which would mean that you would receive the decision and released
material on 15 August 2022.

 

Please confirm if you agree to this extension by return email.

 

Once we have received your written confirmation of this extension, we will
inform the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner of the
agreement to adjust the processing timeframe of your FOI request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hugo Aoki

Legal officer

Legal team

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Proud to be working on the lands of Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples

Email: [1][email address]
Website: [2]ombudsman.gov.au

 

[3]ombudsman

Influencing systemic improvement in public administration

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the Traditional
Owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

 

From: Information Access
Sent: Friday, 1 July 2022 6:15 PM
To: [FOI #9023 email]
Cc: Information Access <[email address]>
Subject: Acknowledgement of receipt of your FOI request: our ref FOI
2022-10066 [SEC=OFFICIAL]

 

OFFICIAL

 

OFFICIAL

 

Our ref: FOI-2022-10066

 

Dear Saraswati,

 

Freedom of Information request – Acknowledgment

I acknowledge receipt of your correspondence dated 15 June 2022, in which
you requested access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act
1982 (FOI Act). Your request for documents was framed in the following
way:

Part A

… Under the FOI Act, please provide any correspondence sent on 20 December
2021 from the Ombudsman to the APSC.

 

B

… Under the FOI Act, please provide the notice or correspondence
transferring the anonymous public interest disclosure from the
Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020.

 

C

… Under the FOI Act, please provide any senate estimates briefing
materials (hot pocket briefs or otherwise) prepared for the Commonwealth
Ombudsman (or acting Commonwealth Ombudsman) for additional estimates in
February 2022 and for budget estimates in April 2022.

 

Timeframes

You should expect a decision from us within 30 days from the date we
received your FOI request. This 30 day period may be extended if we need
to consult third parties, impose a charge (a fee for processing your
request) or for other reasons. We will let you know if this happens.

If you have any questions, you may contact me via email at
[4][email address] or by using the contact details in
the footer of this email.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Sine Dellit

Senior Legal officer

Legal team

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Proud to be working on the lands of Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples

Email: [5][email address]
Website: [6]ombudsman.gov.au

 

[7]ombudsman

Influencing systemic improvement in public administration

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the Traditional
Owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

 

 

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional
owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/
3. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/
4. mailto:[email address]
5. mailto:[email address]
6. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/
7. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/

Dear Mr Aoki,

I understand that you would like me to agree to an extension of time so that you can process part C of my FOI request.

I agree to an extension of time so you can process part C of my FOI request.

What I am really after is any and all senate estimates briefing materials (hot pocket briefs or otherwise) prepared for the Commonwealth Ombudsman (or acting Commonwealth Ombudsman) for additional estimates in February 2022 and for budget estimates in April 2022 that touch on:

a) public interest disclosures generally (e.g. statistics and data about public interest disclosures etc);
b) the public interest disclosure that was allocated from the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020;
c) the OCO's preliminary inquiry, under s 7A of the Ombudsman Act, into Kate McMullan's handling of the public interest disclosure allocated to the APSC on 11 May 2020; and
c) the OCO's investigation, under s 8 of the Ombudsman Act, into Kate McMullan's handling of the public interest disclosure allocated to the APSC on 11 May 2020.

If it assists, I also agree to the staff of the OCO limiting the scope of part C of my FOI request to any and all senate estimates briefing materials (hot pocket briefs or otherwise) prepared for the Commonwealth Ombudsman (or acting Commonwealth Ombudsman) for additional estimates in February 2022 and for budget estimates in April 2022 that touch on:

a) public interest disclosures generally (e.g. statistics and data about public interest disclosures etc);
b) the public interest disclosure that was allocated from the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the APSC on 11 May 2020;
c) the OCO's preliminary inquiry, under s 7A of the Ombudsman Act, into Kate McMullan's handling of the public interest disclosure allocated to the APSC on 11 May 2020; and
c) the OCO's investigation, under s 8 of the Ombudsman Act, into Kate McMullan's handling of the public interest disclosure allocated to the APSC on 11 May 2020.

Yours sincerely,

Saraswati

Saraswati left an annotation ()

An application for IC review has been submitted. The IC review reference is MR22/01340.

Dear Ms Porteous,

I couldn't help but notice that you personally responded to two FOI requests that were made after the FOI requests that I had made: see

i) https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/n...
ii) https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/n...

I made this FOI request on 15 June 2022. That was more than three months ago.

On 12 July 2022, Hugo Aoki of the Ombudsman's Office wrote to me to ask for an extension of time. In that email he said:

"I refer to your FOI request of 15 June 2022, for which a decision is currently due on 15 July 2022.

We will be providing you with a decision for Parts A and B of your request on 15 July 2022."

Mr Aoki also asked for an extension of time to process part c of my request.

I agreed to the requested extension of time.

I have not received the promised response to parts A and B of my request, which, according to Mr Aoki, was to be provided to me more than two months ago. I have also not received a decision in relation to part c of my request, despite the extension of time agreed to.

Louise got a response out of you when she noted:

"Section 15AA of the FOI Act provides:

An agency or Minister may extend the period referred to in paragraph 15(5)(b) for dealing with a request, or that period as extended under subsection 15(6) or (8) (consultation), by a further period of no more than 30 days if:

a) the applicant agrees in writing to the extension; and
b) the agency or Minister gives written notice of the extension to the Information Commissioner as soon as practicable after the agreement is made."

Like Louise, I agreed to an extension of time. I agreed to an extension until 15 August 2022. I should like to think that the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman complied with its obligations under the law and gave written notice of the extension to the Information Commissioner. I have not received a decision is response to my FOI request. Accordingly, unless an extension of time has been granted by the OAIC, a deemed refusal decision has been personally made by the Commonwealth Ombudsman under the FOI Act.

To assist the OAIC I would like to note the reference number provided by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman when written notice of the agreement to an extension of time was provided to the OAIC in accordance with s 15AA(b) of the FOI Act.

Please provide any reference number issued by the OAIC in furtherance of its receipt of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman's written notice that an extension of time was agreed to as soon as possible.

Also, please tell me when a decision will be provided to me in relation to my FOI request. If Hugo Aoki was not lying, then you have already got the response ready to parts A and B of my request and, given that you have had more than 60 additional days to deal with part c of my request, you should have a response to that part of my FOI request ready too.

It's just not acceptable for you to handle requests that were made months after my FOI requests prior to attending to mine. I feel as though an unjustifiably discriminatory approach is being taken to processing my requests and I am not sure what the reasons for that discrimination are.

Yours sincerely,

Saraswati

Ms Porteous,

It has been more than 100 days since I made my FOI request for access to documents.

On 12 July 2022 Hugo Aoki of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman promised to provide a decision in relation to parts A and B of my FOI request on 15 July 2022. That undertaking has not been fulfilled.

I provided the Office with an extension of time to consider my FOI request on 14 July 2022.

A response to my request was due in mid-August 2022. No decision was provided to me. According, the Commonwealth Ombudsman is deemed to have personally refused my request for access to the requested documents.

On 6 September 2022 you promised to "respond to [my] FOI matters" as soon as you could: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r.... When will you provide me with a decision letter and access to the requested document?

I would be mortified if my name was associated with such a shameless disregard for the law. What kind of Director of a Legal Team in an integrity agency permits such a thing?

Yours sincerely,

Saraswati

Polly Porteous - Director of the Legal Team in the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman,

It has been more than 120 days since I made my FOI request for access to documents.

On 12 July 2022 Hugo Aoki of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman promised to provide a decision in relation to parts A and B of my FOI request on 15 July 2022. That undertaking has not been fulfilled.

I agreed to an extension of time so that the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman could better consider my FOI request on 14 July 2022.

A response to my request was due in mid-August 2022. No decision was provided to me. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Ombudsman is deemed to have personally refused my request for access to the requested documents.

On 6 September 2022 you promised to "respond to [my] FOI matters" as soon as you could. When will you provide me with a decision letter and access to the requested documents? Do you intend to ignore my request forever? The OAIC will eventually hold the Commonwealth Ombudsman to account.

I would be mortified if my name was associated with such a shameless disregard for the law. What kind of Director of a Legal Team in an integrity agency permits such a thing?

Yours sincerely,

Saraswati

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

7 Attachments

OFFICIAL

 

Dear Saraswati

 

Please see attached:

 

 1. Our Office’s decision letter dated 19 October 2022
 2. The documents released

 

Please let me know if you have any questions

 

Yours sincerely

 

David

Legal Officer

Legal Team

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Phone: 1300 362 072

Email: [1][email address]
Website: [2]ombudsman.gov.au

 

[3][IMG]

Influencing systemic improvement in public administration

 

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional
owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

 

       

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional
owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. https://ombudsman.gov.au/
3. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/