Richard Boyle disciplinary decisions
Benny Oates made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Taxation Office
This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.
Dear Australian Taxation Office,
Please provide copies of any decisions made in respect to misconduct or alleged misconduct by Richard Boyle, including but not limited to the following instances (mentioned in the media):
1. In 2016, Mr Boyle was disciplined for processing debt correspondence before issuing garnishees.
2. In 2017, Mr Boyle was disicplined for remitting interest and storing information on a "hard drive".
3. In 2018, Mr Boyle was suspended without pay for speaking to the media without authorisation.
Dear Australian Taxation Office,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of Australian Taxation Office's handling of my FOI request 'Richard Boyle disciplinary decisions'.
Mr Boyle has suggested publicly that the ATO has taken disciplinary action against him for trivial or unavoidable 'misconduct' (storing ATO information on an ATO system), and that he was punished for processing taxpayer correspondence in order to prevent excessive amounts being seized under the garnishee power, which is to say he refused to obey an unlawful direction. Each of these comments, if factually correct, would tend to suggest the ATO was seeking to seize cash to which it was not entitled, and retaliated against an employee who raised concerns by finding some minor infraction to justify punishment. This would bring its administration of the Public Servant Code of Conduct into disrepute.
The ATO and the Department of Human Services have each, independently, expressed the view publicly that the duties of an official administering an Act include making public disclosures of otherwise-confidential information in order to correct false statements and protect public confidence in the system being administered. In the case of both the ATO and the Department of Human Services, this proposition was said to trigger the 'performance of duties' exception to the respective agencies' secrecy provisions, while in the case of the Department of Human Services it was further said to constitute lawful disclosure of personal information under the Privacy Act.
Accordingly, where a person has put adverse comments on the public record, secrecy and privacy do not prohibit disclosure of further information by the agency in order to rebut those comments. Since the law does not prohibit such further disclosures, and the FOI Act mandates disclosure in the absence of any prohibition, the documents sought should be released.
In terms of the reasonableness of disclosure of personal information, the person to whom the personal information relates has placed this subject matter on the public record. This is not a case of the Freedom of Information Act being used to drag a private citizen into the limelight. A person who blows the whistle publicly about a personal matter, and does not take any steps to obscure their identity in doing so, should reasonably expect that personal information about that matter will become public. The fact that the individual has placed some information but not all information on the public record is not determinative; the public interest is in the truth about government administration, not in Mr Boyle telling his story his way for its own sake. Now that the matter is in the public domain, the full pertinent details of that matter are a legitimate subject of public consideration.
The documents sought do more than merely excite curiosity; they shed light on whether and how an important government agency is abusing its Code of Conduct to expedite short-term performance indicators and suppress whistleblowing. As recognised by the ATO and the Department of Human Services separately, the public has a legitimate interest in obtaining facts which allow it to accurately judge the integrity of an agency.
Some redactions may be necessary in order to protect additional details of Mr Boyle's personal life, or details of other officers, which have not been ventilated publicly. However, at the minimum, sufficient parts of the documents should be released in order to confirm for the public whether Mr Boyle was in fact punished for the kinds of things he says he was.
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...