Suspected breaches of the APS Code of Conduct by staff in certain Centrelink Service Centres

Vera Lystich made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Human Services

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

From: Vera Lystich

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

I am writing to request the following, under the Freedom of Information Act:

"Copies of reports into 'suspected breaches of the APS Code of Conduct' by Centrelink staff at the Boronia, Ringwood or Lilydale Centrelink Service Centres in Victoria."

There is precedent for releasing this information under the FOI Act. The Department's FOI Disclosure Log lists 14 such reports having been released on 16 October 2012.

To assist you in locating these documents, the previously released documents have been entitled 'Final Report of the Decision Maker on Suspected Breach of the Code of Conduct by xxx', however please note that I would not seek to limit the scope of my request to documents with this title.

To assist in the processing of my request, I am willing to limit its scope to only those documents prepared since January 2010, to the present. I am, of course, expecting the personally-identifying information of the individuals involved to be redacted.

Yours faithfully,

Vera Lystich

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment Acknowledgement LEX 12004 Lystich.pdf
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Dear Ms Lystich,

Please see attached correspondence relating to your request under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982.

If you have any queries, please email
[1][email address].

Kind regards

 

 

FOI Officer

FOI Team

Freedom of Information & Information Release Branch | Legal Services
Division
Department of Human Services | Doris Blackburn Building 18 Canberra Avenue
Forrest ACT 2603

 

 

 

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1. mailto:[email address]

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment Charges notification LEX 12004 Lystich.pdf
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Dear Ms Lystich,

Please see attached correspondence relating to your request under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982.

If you have any queries, please contact
[email address].

Kind regards

 

FOI Officer

FOI Team

Freedom of Information & Information Release Branch | Legal Services
Division
Department of Human Services

 

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Vera Lystich left an annotation ()

10 Hours of decision making seems a bit steep?

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Ben Fairless left an annotation ()

8 minutes per page (10.5hrs for 74 pages). That sounds a bit steep in my opinion.

Using the Australian Government Solicitor calculator (a copy was posted online - http://www.agriculture.gov.au/sitecollec... I put in 1 file with 74 pages. I would assume (after playing with the calculator) that they are going to redact something off around 50 pages.

You could make 2 claims, the first that the processing time is excessive (it does not take 8mins to read a page and black some text out) and that it is in the public interest for the information to be released (the conduct of staff dealing with a member of the public should be subject to scrutiny).

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From: Vera Lystich

Delivered

Dear Delegate,

Thank you for your letter dated 28 January in which you wrote that you have decided to impose a charge of $121.55 in relation to access request LEX 12004.

I am writing to contend that a charge should not be imposed, on four grounds.

1. Financial hardship

The charge, if imposed, would constitute approximately a third (32.4%) of my weekly disposable income.

On this basis, although I am not in receipt of a social security payment, it is my contention that the proposed charge would cause me financial hardship.

2. Public interest

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)'s Freedom of Information guidelines confirm that you may waive or vary a charge if releasing the document in question would be in the general public interest (1).

In "Carver and Fair Work Ombudsman"(2), a similar case involving the release of documents relating to APS Code of Conduct investigations, the FOI Commissioner found that:

"the principal factor favouring disclosure in this IC review is the importance of transparency in investigations of the work-related conduct of public officials… the public interest in ensuring that complaints… are properly and appropriately investigated and dealt with."

On this basis, given there is precedent that the release of reports of APS Code of Conduct investigations is in the public interest, I contend the charge should not be imposed.

3. FOI Disclosure Log

In my initial request, I advised that documents of a similar nature to what I was requesting were released on the Department's FOI Disclosure Log, pursuant to s. 11C of the FOI Act, on 16 October 2012.

The OAIC's FOI Guidelines indicate that where "the document [requested] is similar to a document that the agency has published on its website under s11C of the Act,"(1) it may be appropriate for an agency to waive an access charge.

4. Calculation of charge

I have examined the documents previously released by the Department in its FOI Disclosure Log and wish to contend that the hours calculated for decision-making are in excess of what is required.

I appreciate that search and retrieval time must be undertaken, so this component of the charge is not relevant to this point.

The redacted portions of the similar documents released on the Department's FOI Disclosure Log appear to be mostly personal information such as names.

If the document relevant to this request contains similar instances of personal information, I do not believe 10.35 hours is a reasonable estimate of decision-making time.

--

It is my belief that, when all four grounds are considered together, the Department should exercise its discretion to waive the processing charge it has decided to impose.

If you would like to clarify any of the reasoning above, please do not hesitate to contact me by reply email.

Yours sincerely,

Vera Lystich

(1) Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. (2014). Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under s 93A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Part 4, pp. 13-15). Retrieved from http://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-inform....
(2) Carver and Fair Work Ombudsman [2011] AICmr 5 (27 July 2011)

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Ms Lystich,

Thank you for your comments.

Paragraph 4.53 of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's Guidelines indicate that if an applicant wishes to reply on financial hardship as a ground for reducing or not imposing a charge, the applicant could ordinarily be expected to provide some evidence of financial hardship. Examples of the evidence an applicant may rely upon and provide include, for example, a receipt of a pension or income support payment; or evidence of income, debts or assets.

The department invites you to provide evidence of your financial hardship in order to support your submissions by COB 11 February 2015.

If you do not provide any further submissions or evidence, I will proceed to a decision on the impositions of charges on the basis of the submissions you have already provided.

If you have any queries, please email [DHS request email].

FOI Officer
FOI Team
Freedom of Information & Information Release Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

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From: Vera Lystich

Delivered

Good evening,

Thank you for your email.

As per your request, I have mailed a hard copy of my household budget to the Department's FOI team postal address listed on its website.

I have marked the paperwork with your reference number for this request, LEX 12004.

Please note that my earlier advice on 29 January relating to the amount of the imposed charge as a percentage of my disposable income is no longer correct. As of 31 January, my partner is no longer employed. The impact of this on my household has been outlined in the budget that I have mailed to you.

Yours sincerely,

Vera Lystich

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment Charges decision letter LEX 12004 Lystich.pdf
70K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Lystich,

Please see attached correspondence relating to your request under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982.

If you have any queries, please email [email address].

Kind regards

 

FOI Officer

FOI Team

Freedom of Information & Information Release Branch | Legal Services
Division
Department of Human Services

 

show quoted sections

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From: Vera Lystich

Delivered

Good evening,

Thank you for your email.

While I do not agree with some of your comments, specifically relating to the applicability of the Carver case to this situation, I would like to thank you for deciding to reduce the charge by 50%.

I am happy to pay the deposit requested to receive a decision on my request.

Does the Department have other facilities to receive payments, such as EFT? Otherwise, I would need to obtain a bank cheque, which comes at a cost of approximately $6.00.

Yours sincerely,

Vera Lystich

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Vera Lystich left an annotation ()

Does anyone know why DHS FOI officers do not use their names in the letters they send? It makes it awkward and a little impersonal to respond using 'Dear Delegate' or 'Good evening' all the time!

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Ms Lystich,

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately, the department does not have electronic payment facilities for Freedom of Information charges. As set out in the charges decision letter dated 11 February 2014, the payment options are by cheque or money order made out to the Collector of Public Monies with the reference number "LEX 12004" quoted.

I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

If you have any queries, please email [email address].

FOI Officer
FOI Team
Freedom of Information & Information Release Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

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