Staffing levels for Information Law Section

Julie made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Veterans' Affairs

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.

From: Julie

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

I wish to obtain access to official information held by the Department of Veterans' Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The official information sought is not available in discrete form, in the written documents of the agency, therefore I request the agency to produce a written document containing the information in discrete form by use of computer to retrieve and collate the stored official information sought.

I request access to such a compiled document that provides the following information in the layout requested:

From a FOI decision here on Right to Know it appears the Information Law section of the Department of Veterans' Affairs is made up of 9 positions, being an EL2 (position number[Phone Number Automatically Hidden]), two EL1 (position numbers[Phone Number Automatically Hidden] &[Phone Number Automatically Hidden]), two APS6 (position numbers[Phone Number Automatically Hidden] &[Phone Number Automatically Hidden]), an APS5 (position number[Phone Number Automatically Hidden]), an APS4 (position number[Phone Number Automatically Hidden]), an APS 3 (position number[Phone Number Automatically Hidden]), and a contractor (position number[Phone Number Automatically Hidden]). It is possible there have been slight changes to the position establishment of Information Law since, but this is likely to still be current.

In either case, for all positions within the Information Law section that were filled during the period March to July inclusive, for 2020 and 2019, using the official records of duty (that is, staff member was recorded as on duty, and was not on personal leave or sick leave, in the Department's human management / pay systems), provide the cumulative number of available staff days for the periods of scope:

Table...................March 2020 - July 2020..................March 2019 - July 2019
Available
Unavailable

Again, as stated, an available staff day is count of each work day (so excludes weekends and public holidays) each filled position was available for duty (not on personal leave or sick leave). For example, on one work day there are three filled positions and all three are available for work, then the count for the day would be three (and if there were three filled position but only two were available for work and one was on sick leave for that day, the count for the day would be 2 available, 1 unavailable), and so on. Flexi-time is ignored, as it is merely a transfer of days worked.

Sincerely,

Julie

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From: INFORMATION.LAW
Department of Veterans' Affairs


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Dear Julie

 

Acknowledgement of your Freedom of Information (FOI) Request – FOI 38006

 

I refer to your request for access to documents held by the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs (Department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(Cth) (FOI Act).

 

Your request was received by the Department on 3 September 2020 and was
made in the following terms:

 

“…I wish to obtain access to official information held by the Department
of Veterans' Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The
official information sought is not available in discrete form, in the
written documents of the agency, therefore I request the agency to produce
a written document containing the information in discrete form by use of
computer to retrieve and collate the stored official information sought.

 

I request access to such a compiled document that provides the following
information in the layout requested:

 

From a FOI decision here on Right to Know it appears the Information Law
section of the Department of Veterans' Affairs is made up of 9 positions,
being an EL2 (position number 62209913), two EL1 (position numbers
62210326 & 62210022), two APS6 (position numbers 62210358 & 62214719), an
APS5 (position number 62214547), an APS4 (position number 62210105), an
APS 3 (position number 62214718), and a contractor (position number
62212962). It is possible there have been slight changes to the position
establishment of Information Law since, but this is likely to still be
current.

 

In either case, for all positions within the Information Law section that
were filled during the period March to July inclusive, for 2020 and 2019,
using the official records of duty (that is, staff member was recorded as
on duty, and was not on personal leave or sick leave, in the Department's
human management / pay systems), provide the cumulative number of
available staff days for the periods of scope:

 

Table...................March 2020 - July 2020..................March 2019
- July 2019 Available Unavailable

 

Again, as stated, an available staff day is count of each work day (so
excludes weekends and public holidays) each filled position was available
for duty (not on personal leave or sick leave). For example, on one work
day there are three filled positions and all three are available for work,
then the count for the day would be three (and if there were three filled
position but only two were available for work and one was on sick leave
for that day, the count for the day would be 2 available, 1 unavailable),
and so on. Flexi-time is ignored, as it is merely a transfer of days
worked…”

 

The Department has 30 days to finalise your request. The 30 day statutory
timeframe commenced the day after your request was received by the
Department.

 

Ordinarily you should expect a decision from the Department by 5 October
2020. 

 

Interrupted work practices impacted by COVID-19

The Department is continuing to work through its FOI case load as quickly
as possible. However, the Department is and will continue to experience an
interruption in the way it will be able to manage FOI requests. As you are
likely to be aware, COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has been declared a pandemic by
the World Health Organisation. As the Department focuses its efforts on
managing the impact of COVID-19 on its critical services and employees,
other non-critical services may not be delivered within expected
timeframes. It is possible that during this time, business areas that
would ordinarily have capacity to undertake searches and assist in the
processing of FOI requests may not be readily available to provide that
assistance. This may have an impact on the manner and timeframe in which
the Department can process FOI requests. We apologise for the
inconvenience and appreciate your patience and cooperation during this
period.

 

When the processing period may be extended or suspended

As noted above, there are times when the timeframe for processing your
request might be extended by an additional 30 days. This can occur where
an extension of time has been agreed to by yourself under section 15AA of
the FOI Act or where the OAIC has granted an extension of time under
sections 15AB or 15AC of the FOI Act. In addition, if documents you seek
contain information of third parties and the Department is of the view
that is practical to consult with the third parties, then the Department
will be afforded an additional 30 days to undertake that consolation
process (see sections 15(6), 26A, 27 and 27A of the FOI Act). The
Department will advise you if a third party consultation process is
required and of the revised due date for your request to be finalised by.

 

Additionally, there are occasions where the time to process your request
may be suspended. This will usually take place if a practical refusal
consultation process takes place (section 24AB of the FOI Act) or if a
charges notice is issued to process your request (section 29 of the FOI
Act). If the Department decides that either of these apply to your
request, the Department will notify you.

 

Communication with you

The FOI Act requires that you provide us with an address which we can send
notices to.  You have advised your electronic address is
[1][FOI #6682 email].  We will send all notices
and correspondence to this address.  Please advise us if you wish
correspondence to be sent to another address or if your address changes. 
If you do not advise us of changes to your address, correspondence and
notices will continue to be sent to the address specified above.

 

FOI Disclosure log – Publication of documents released under the FOI Act

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may be published
in a disclosure log on the Department’s website at
[2]https://www.dva.gov.au/about-us/overview...
Section 11C of the FOI Act requires this publication, however it is
subject to certain exceptions, including where publication of personal,
business, professional or commercial information would be unreasonable.
When a decision is provided to you, the Department will advise if the
documents released to you will be published on the Department’s FOI
Disclosure log.

 

Contacting us about your FOI request

We will email again when the Department has more information. Should you
have any enquiries concerning this matter, please send an email to
[3][email address]

 

Further information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the
OAIC at [4]https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor....

 

Yours sincerely

 

Tayla (Position Number 62217695)

Information Access Officer

Information Law Section

Legal Services and Audit Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

T: 1800 555 254 | E: [5][email address]

A: GPO Box 9998, Canberra, ACT, 2601 | W: [6]www.dva.gov.au

 

[7]cid:image001.png@01D0027A.1DAB84F0

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[8]cid:image001.png@01D32593.9CC39540The Department acknowledges the
Traditional Owners of the land throughout Australia and their continuing
connection to country, sea and community. We pay our respect to all
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultures and to their
elders past and present

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From: INFORMATION.LAW
Department of Veterans' Affairs


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Attachment FOI 38006 Statement of Reasons.pdf
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Dear Julie,

 

Please see attached the statement of reasons for FOI 36006 due 5 October
2020.

 

Thank you

 

Kind Regards,

 

Tayla (Position Number 62217695)

Information Access Officer

Information Law Section

Legal Services and Audit Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

T: 1800 555 254 | E: [1][email address]

A: GPO Box 9998, Canberra, ACT, 2601 | W: [2]www.dva.gov.au

 

[3]cid:image001.png@01D0027A.1DAB84F0

P Please consider the environment before printing this email

IMPORTANT:  This document contains legal advice and may be subject to
legal professional privilege. Unless it is waived or lost, legal
professional privilege is a rule of law that, in part, provides that the
client need not disclose confidential communications between a legal
practitioner and client. To keep this privilege, the purpose and content
of this advice must only be disclosed to persons who have a need to know
and on the basis that those persons also keep it confidential.

You should consider this advice and take it into account when forming a
decision on how best to proceed. If you decide to adopt a position that
does not align with this advice, you should not state that DVA Legal
Services & Audit Branch has cleared or endorsed a particular position.

 

 

 

 

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From: Julie

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Veterans' Affairs's handling of my FOI request 'Staffing levels for Information Law Section'.

The delegate has misrepresented section 17 of the Act, in claiming "that [as] the Department is unable to [automatically] produce a document in response to your request at this time via the use of an ordinarily available computer system... no document exists". That section of the Act does not require that the compiling of information into a new document must be entirely by automated means and must not involve any human process as claimed by your delegate.

I am aware this is a recent repeated misleading claim made by the Department in a number of recent FOI decisions, such as to Mr Parnell, contrary to earlier prior FOI decisions made by the Department that involved section 17 and which were complied at least in part manually.

As such, this is a contemptuous practice by the Department, and one contrary to accepted FOI practice. It is regrettable that the Department has engaged in such bad faith, to obscure and hide matters of public interest.

Section 17(1)(c)(i) states that where an agency could produce a written document containing the information by using a ‘computer or other equipment that is ordinarily available’ to the agency for retrieving or collating stored information, then it must produce such a document. Notably, the relevant phrase is "computer or other equipment", which includes more than just the database it may reside in.

The Department's position is untenable, and would be subject to reversal on IC Review, therefore I recommend the Department is proactive and issues a correct decision on Internal Review.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s...

Sincerely,

Julie

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From: INFORMATION.ACCESS
Department of Veterans' Affairs

** This is an automated response. Please do not reply to this email **

Thank you for contacting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

 

Your email has been received and will be actioned shortly.

 

National Information Access Processing

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Phone: 1800 555 254

[1]www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-business-reporting/freedom-information

References

Visible links
1. http://www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-busin...

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From: Julie

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

To avoid all doubt, this Internal Review is overdue for acknowledgement (automated replies not specific to FOI do not typically imply acknowledgement).

Sincerely

Julie

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From: INFORMATION.ACCESS
Department of Veterans' Affairs

** This is an automated response. Please do not reply to this email **

Thank you for contacting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

 

Your email has been received and will be actioned shortly.

 

National Information Access Processing

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Phone: 1800 555 254

[1]www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-business-reporting/freedom-information

References

Visible links
1. http://www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-busin...

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From: Julie

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

IR decision is due today - or will it be yet another case of the Department [falsely] claiming it had a processing error and causing unlawful delay.

Sincerely

Julie

Link to this

From: INFORMATION.ACCESS
Department of Veterans' Affairs

** This is an automated response. Please do not reply to this email **

Thank you for contacting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

 

Your email has been received and will be actioned shortly.

 

National Information Access Processing

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Phone:[Phone Number Hidden]4

[1]www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-business-reporting/freedom-information

References

Visible links
1. http://www.dva.gov.au/about-us/our-busin...

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From: INFORMATION.LAW
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Attachment FOI 39326 Statement of Reasons IR 23.11.20.pdf
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Dear Julie

 

Please see attached the Department’s Internal Review Decision dated 23
November 2020.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Chantal (Position Number[Phone Number Hidden])

Legal Officer

Information Law Section

Legal Services and Audit Branch

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

t[Phone Number Hidden]4 | e [1][email address] | [2]www.dva.gov.au

p GPO Box 9998, Canberra ACT 2601

P Please consider the environment before printing this email

 

 

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From: Julie

Dear Chantal,

A typically poor and untenable response from the Department, that wholly misconstrues section 17(1)(c)(i).

Not unsurprisingly, it has therefore been sent for IC Review.

As usual, the Department scrapes the bottom of the barrel in FOI practices.

Sincerely

Julie

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