Request for documents in relation to the investigation of suspected breaches of s 65 of the PID Act, and about prosecution of suspected offences

The request was partially successful.

Dear Commonwealth Ombudsman,

On 20 March 2022 I made a request to the APSC for selection documents relating to the selection of the National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - QLD and National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - WA of the Federal Court (see vacancy NN 10725159 in on pages 34-36 in Public Service Gazette No PS19 published on 10 May 2018). The request can be seen here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s....

On 25 March 2022 Ms Giorgina Strangio, the Assistant Commissioner for Integrity, Performance and Employment Policy in the Australian Public Service Commission, made an access decision and provided me with redacted copies of the selection reports: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s....

On 27 March 2022 I requested an internal review of Ms Strangio's decision on the ground that the redactions were too extensive: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s...

On 4 April 2022 Mr Patrick Hetherington, the First Assistant Commissioner in the Australian Public Service Commission, provided a decision pursuant to my internal review request. Mr Hetherington made a fresh decision and removed some of the redactions that Ms Strangio had made to the selection reports: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s...

On 5 April 2022 I made a request to the APSC for selection documents relating to the selection of the NCF Registrar (NN 10690165 in Public Service Gazette No PS38 of 2016, published on 21 September 2016). The request can be seen here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s.... The document is a similar document to the selection reports released to me by Ms Strangio and Mr Hetherington on 25 March 2022 and 4 April 2022

Ms Giorgina Strangio refused access to the document. One of her reasons for refusing to grant access was that the selection report for vacancy NN 10690165 was provided to the APSC in the course of a PID investigation (much like the selection reports for the National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - QLD and National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - WA vacancies). According to an article published in the Australian on 29 March 2022, that PID investigation is subject to an investigation under the Ombudsman Act (a Category 4 investigation). In a mealy mouthed way, Ms Strangio claims that granting access to the selection report for vacancy NN 10690165 would undermine the secrecy provision (s 65) of the PID Act.

Section 65 of the PID Act provides:

(1) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person has information (protected information) that the person obtained:
(i) in the course of conducting a disclosure investigation; or
(ii) in connection with the performance of a function, or the exercise of a power, by the person under this Act; and
(b) the person:
(i) discloses the information to another person; or
(ii) uses the information.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 2 years or 120 penalty units, or both.

If Ms Strangio genuinely believes that disclosing information to people that is contained in documents that were obtained in the course of a disclosure investigation is a contravention of s 65 of the PID Act, and if she is correct, then, in providing the selection reports for the National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - QLD and National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - WA vacancies that Murray Belcher and Russell Trott were "promoted" to would constitute a contravention of section 65. A person who contravenes s 65 commits an indictable offence, which is punishable by imprisonment for 2 years or 120 penalty units, or both. Accordingly, Ms Stragio, the Assistant Commissioner for Integrity, Performance and Employment Policy in the Australian Public Service Commission, and Mr Hetherington, the First Assistant Commissioner in the Australian Public Service Commission, would have committed offences.

Under the FOI Act, but for access to the Agency Guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (version 2), I request access to any and all documents held by the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman that set out:

a) how investigations of suspected offences (generally) are to be investigated internally (that is, in the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman);
b) how investigations of contraventions of s 65 of the PID Act are to be investigated internally (that is, in the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman);
c) how referrals to investigative bodies other than the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman are to be made if a person is suspected of contravening s 65 of the PID Act; and
d) anything about the referral of suspected offences under s 65 of the PID Act are to made from an investigative body to a prosecutorial body.

Yours faithfully,

Marcus

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL

 

Dear Marcus

 

I attach correspondence in relation to your Freedom of Information request
of 9 April 2022.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Gregory Parkhurst

Senior Legal Officer | Legal Team

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Ph: 1300 362 072 | Fax: 02 6276 0123

email: [1][CO request email]

 

 

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.

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References

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1. mailto:[CO request email]

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

3 Attachments

OFFICIAL

 

Dear Marcus

 

I attach the following things in response to your Freedom of Information
request of 9 April 2022:

 

o My decision letter dated 5 May 2022.
o The documents released under my decision.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Gregory Parkhurst

Senior Legal Officer | Legal Team

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Ph: 1300 362 072 | Fax: 02 6276 0123

email: [1][CO request email]

 

 

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:[CO request email]

Dear Commonwealth Ombudsman,

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

I request an internal review of your decision in respect of item 1 - Commonwealth Ombudsman's PID Standard Operating Procedure.

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,

Marcus

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

2 Attachments

OFFICIAL

 

Dear Marcus,

 

Please see attached correspondence.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Sine Dellit

 

Senior Legal Officer | Legal Team

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Ph: 1300 362 072 | Fax: 02 6276 0123

Email: [1][CO request email]

 

[2][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:[CO request email]
2. https://aus01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

Commonwealth Ombudsman

 
 
  [1]Office of the Australian Information Reference Code:  
Commissioner ICR_10-49315276-2661
 

 
You submitted a form called: FOI Review_
 
Your form reference code is: ICR_10-49315276-2661

To check the progress of your submission and/or confirm it has been
received you should contact the agency that provides the form. These
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Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
[2]http://www.oaic.gov.au | [3]1300 363 992 | [4][email address]
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Dear Ms Dellit,

Thank you for your letter.

For your information I have applied for IC review of your decision.

Yours faithfully,

Marcus

Commonwealth Ombudsman

1 Attachment

Our reference: MR22/00966

 

By email: [FOI #8722 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 MR22/00966.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information Regulatory Group

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

 

 

 

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