SPOC Referral Statisics for July 2018

Verity Pane made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Veterans' Affairs

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

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

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

Under s 17 of the FOI Act, I apply for a one page summary document to be compiled from information held in your agency’s information systems, which will primarily (and possibly only require) information from DVA’s aDVAnce system, to set out the number of DVA clients, by age group, that were referred to SPOC management by the Coordinated Care unit and Client Liaison Unit (to be listed separately) for the month of July 2018 (TRIM and Outlook need not be searched, based on information given by the Coordinated Client Support Program, that states such methods have not been used since Feb 2016 for referral management).

As per the relevant ANAO report, the Client Liaison Unit (CLU) was established by DVA in Setptember 2007, and the Coordinated Care (CC) unit in January 2010, following criticisms made by various preceding reviews.

DVA implemented the Case Coordination program to case manage clients identified (Level 3 or Level 2) as being at increased risk of self‐harm or harm to others, who have multiple complex needs (although recent veterans who were at risk, such as Jesse Bird, were not managed by this unit). The Client Liaison Unit was established to case manage clients identified (Level 1) as vulnerable or having complex behaviours.

DVA breaks veterans into age groups referred to as ‘young veterans’ (64 and under) and ‘veterans’ (65 and over), based on historical retirement age. For the purpose of this FOI, we will stick to this age split.

Format of compiled document:

Unit....................FY15/16...................FY16/17..................FY17/18
CLU - >65
CLU - 65+
CC - >65
CC- 65+

The purpose of this FOI is to determine what DVA itself has determined are the numbers of vulnerable veterans, by age group, it has, by reference to the number of referrals it makes (which, as the Jesse Bird case reflects, will be a lower number than the actual number of vulnerable veterans DVA is communicating with, but gives some indicative evidence).

Yours faithfully,

Verity Pane

Attn Department of Veterans' Affairs,

Considering my other FOIs made at the same time received an acknowledgement this morning, the fact that one was not given to this one rather stands out.

I note in the past this is often a prelude to DVA intentionally ignoring the FOI to force deemed refusal.

Ms Pane

INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

1 Attachment

Dear Verity Pane,

 

Acknowledgement of FOI Request – FOI 25062

 

I refer to your request to access information held by our Department under
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).  The Department received
your request on 13 October 2018. In accordance with section 15(5)(b) of
the FOI Act, the Department has 30 days to process your request. As such,
a decision on your request is due by 12 November 2018.

 

If you have any questions about your FOI matter, please contact us using
the following details:

 

Post: Legal Services & Assurance, Department of Veterans’ Affairs

GPO Box 9998, Canberra ACT 2601

Facsimile: (02) 6289 6337

Email: [1][email address]

 

In all communications please quote reference FOI 25062.

 

Kind Regards,

 

 

Information Law | Legal Services & Assurance Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

GPO Box 9998 Canberra ACT 2601

E: [2][email address]

 

 

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INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

1 Attachment

Dear Verity Pane,

 

Acknowledgement of FOI Request – FOI 25062

 

I refer to your request to access information held by our Department under
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).  The Department received
your request on 13 October 2018. In accordance with section 15(5)(b) of
the FOI Act, the Department has 30 days to process your request. As such,
a decision on your request is due by 12 November 2018.

 

If you have any questions about your FOI matter, please contact us using
the following details:

 

Post: Legal Services & Assurance, Department of Veterans’ Affairs

GPO Box 9998, Canberra ACT 2601

Facsimile: (02) 6289 6337

Email: [1][email address]

 

In all communications please quote reference FOI 25062.

 

Kind Regards,

 

 

Information Law | Legal Services & Assurance Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

GPO Box 9998 Canberra ACT 2601

E: [2][email address]

 

 

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INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

2 Attachments

Dear Verity Pane

 

FOI 25062 – Preliminary Assessment of Charge

 

Please find attached the preliminary assessment of charge for your freedom
of information request received by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on
13 October 2018.

 

Kind regards

 

Information Law Section | Legal Services & General Counsel Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

E: [1][email address]

 

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Attn INFORMATION.LAW,

Oh dear, just when I thought you might be turning a new leaf, yet another grossly inflated and ridiculously overstated charges levy notice.

Collectively, over this past year or so, the amounts DVA have tried to levy exceed into five thousand dollars, yet every time these charges are examined, they prove to well and truly belonging in the fiction section of the library.

DVA’s systemic and endemic practice of using charges notices to stop the s 15(5)(b) processing clock, to intentionally seek to interfere with the aims and objects of the Freedom of Information Act is in utter bad faith.

Disappointingly, there isn’t even an attempt to justify the processing time claimed (at least previous ones did have some description) this time, and the summary charges even incorrectly has two different total charge amounts on it (obviously this was just a quick cut and paste job) - being a total charge of $119.54 or $403.45 depending where you look.

At least this is a preliminary notice this time.

But yet again it highlights the fictional nature of these estimates.

The same data, but for a six month period, recently had an invalid post-dated charges notice for $507.75 issued https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/4...

The same data, but for a one month period here, amazingly gets a $403.45 charges levy.

DVA Information Law employee’s math is either genuinely terrible (even for lawyers) or this is yet another example in the long list of DVA charges notices where the assessment bears no relationship to the work involved, but is merely a reflection of the amount of DVA’s unwilling to legitimately deal with the FOI request in accordance with the law.

The calculations are clearly fictional, being inconsistent with previous calculations, lack any evidentiary basis let alone reasonable description, and are thus challenged accordingly.

Ms Pane

Verity Pane left an annotation ()

As stated by the Information Commissioner:
...it is implicit that a charge must not be used to unnecessarily delay access or discourage an applicant from exercising the right of access conferred by the FOI Act and that charges should fairly reflect the work involved in providing access to documents on request. Where a charge is justified, it would be in keeping with the objects of the FOI Act to ensure that the method of payment should also facilitate prompt access to the documents.

Attn INFORMATION.LAW,

Almost forgot, an even earlier DVA decision, for the same data, but an earlier month had no charge at all https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/4...

Consistency in charging methodology is not DVA’s strength, but I guess that is because your charging practice has nothing to do with the work involved, and everything to do with the level of malice and fraud the Department has at that particular moment.

After all, given these wild variations, it’s not like DVA tries to hide its unlawful message to applicants, in that “if you ask us to provide transparency, we will punish (and even throw insults at you) you for asking, regardless of your rights under FOI law”.

I get your unlawful message, but ultimately it is how you respond to FOI requests that provides the evidence here, so in my view the blatant nature of the interference by DVA in the lawful right to access that FOI creates is ultimately an injury to yourself.

You would find it far more productive to drop the endemic hostility to FOI and work with FOI applicants to provide open government at the lowest practicable cost to all involved (and because on the rarest of occasions, you demonstrate you can be minded that way, I know you can do it).

Ms Pane

INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

Dear Verity Pane

We acknowledge receipt of your reconsideration of charges request below and will notify you of our decision within 30 days of receiving your email in accordance with section 29(6) of the FOI Act.

Kind regards

Information Law Section | Legal Services & General Counsel Branch
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
E: [email address]

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INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

2 Attachments

Dear Verity Pane

 

FOI 25062 – Charges Decision

 

Please find attached the charges decision in relation to your charges
reconsideration request received by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on
25 October 2018.

 

Kind regards

 

Information Law Section | Legal Services & General Counsel Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

E: [1][email address]

 

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To INFORMATION.LAW,

Another ridiculous and unsubstantiated set of estimates that lack any basis in reality.

The FOI Guidelines explain that the decision to impose a charge is discretionary and any charges must be fair, accurate and should not be used to unreasonably hinder an applicant from pursuing an FOI request - which is something DVA repeatedly and unlawfully do. Further, a charge must not be used to unnecessarily delay access or discourage an applicant from exercising the right of access conferred by the FOI Act - again something that DVA repeatedly and unlawfully do,

The FOI Guidelines further explain that in exercising the discretion to impose a charge, an agency should take into account the ‘lowest reasonable cost objective’ in s 3(4) of the FOI Act, which provides that ‘functions and powers given by this Act are to be performed and exercised, as far as possible, to facilitate and promote public access to information, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost’. Again, DVA here repeatedly fail to do this, instead choosing the least efficient and cost effective method possible - including calculating charges based on a senior Executive Level Information Law Lawyer carrying out the basic tasks of reading and writing down numbers and totalling them (and despite that Information Law does not do this work themselves and certainly don’t have an senior Executive Level lawyer do this basic transposing work).

Under s 55D(1) of the FOI Act, it is the agency that bears the onus of establishing that the charges decision given in respect of the request is justified. Instead DVA just dream up some wild estimates and use that figure without any actual proof they are reasonable and relevant to the work involved.

Revealing is that these processing charges were previously calculated in earlier decisions at $20 per hour but have in decisions of late tripled to roughly $60 per hour.

Because of the above, the Information Commissioner will not likely be satisfied that the charges are accurate and fairly reflects the work involved.

As FOI Guidelines provide an underlying assumption in calculating processing charges is that the officers involved in this process are skilled and efficient, not by a senior DVA Information Law lawyer intent on using the least efficient and most drawn out method possible, so as to create the largest possible charges they think they might be able to get away with.

I contend the charges have been constructed with bad faith and do not reflect the lowest economical cost of providing them. Further I note DVA claims the costs result from providing in a ‘preferred format’ but it certainly hasn’t offered any alternative format for these figures.

I also note that according to documents released under FOI, that collation and analysis of the numbers of clients referred and managed in 2016 to present date was only slated as taking two hours. Yet oddly now one month takes the same time as 3 years of data previous.

I also note that a earlier Information Commissioner decision ruled that agencies could not charge applicants for any time the agency took on verifying and confirming figures as applicants are not paying for the agency assurance activities, which are predominantly for their own benefit.

Again, DVA are continuing to engage in bad faith by fraudulently exaggerating by an order of magnitude the actual work involved, including charging for work that is entirely for their own benefit and which has not been requested by the applicant (QA is at your cost, not mine).

Ms Pane

Verity Pane left an annotation ()

IC Review applied for 21 November 2018

INFORMATION.LAW, Department of Veterans' Affairs

2 Attachments

Good evening Verity Pane,

 

FOI 25062 - Revised decision and statement of reasons

 

Please find attached a revised decision issued to you in accordance with
section 55G of the FOI Act. Please do not hesitate to contact us should
you have any questions.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Information Law Section | Legal Services and Audit Branch

Integrity, Assurance and Communications Division

Department of Veterans’ Affairs
E: [1][email address] | W: [2]www.dva.gov.au

 

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References

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

Verity Pane left an annotation ()

After nearly 4 years, the OAIC finally made an Information Commissioner Review in my favour that the charges notice issued by DVA was invalid.

In 'ABX’ and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (Freedom of information) [2022] AICmr 57 (29 July 2022), Freedom of Information Commissioner, Leo Hardiman PSM QC stated:

I consider the correct and preferable decision is that the applicant is not liable to pay a charge. This is because, in my view, a fair and reasonable assessment of a charge in the circumstances of the matter clearly discloses that there is no utility in the imposition of a charge and that attempting to do so is likely only to delay or discourage access while incurring a net financial cost to the Commonwealth.

More particularly, even if a charge could have been correctly imposed by reference to an actual cost, the Department should have considered at the outset whether it was preferable to decide that the applicant was liable to pay a charge at all. The amount of that charge should have raised an obvious question in the minds of those considering its imposition – would it cost the Commonwealth an amount greater than the charge itself to assess and notify the charge, provide the applicant with procedural fairness, and collect the charge? The likely answer to that question would have been ‘yes’. In those circumstances, proceeding with a charge would likely only serve to delay access at a net financial cost to the Commonwealth. While the FOI Act and Charges Regulations would not, by their terms, have prevented the Department from deciding the applicant was liable to pay a charge, the preferable decision would have been to decide that the applicant was not liable to pay a charge.

Further, it is clear that the task required of the Department to produce the document was almost entirely in the nature of a search and retrieval task (with a 5 minute manual compilation task required to produce the document sought). In that case, even if it is legally correct to say that item 3 of Part 1 applied (which, as noted above, I have not found necessary to decide for the purposes of this decision), it would be fair and equitable to reduce that actual cost by reference to the search and retrieval nature of the task involved. That is, it would be fair and reasonable to apply the fixed hourly rate of $15 in calculating the charge, which would have resulted in a charge amount of $73.20. This would have reflected what I consider to be the preferable approach to calculation of the charge in the circumstances of the matter. Adopting that approach, it would have been immediately apparent that imposition of liability to a charge could serve no useful purpose and would be likely only to defer access inconsistently with the objects of the FOI Act.