The cost of corruption

HW made this Freedom of Information request to Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

The request was successful.

From: HW

Delivered

Dear Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,

I refer to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne... which concerns systemic corruption engaged in by the PM/PM’s Department.

I note that the article states that the investigators into that systemic corruption “recruited two solicitors from the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS)” to help with the investigation.

It’s in the public interest to know how much taxpayer money the PM/his Department spent on lawyers to paper over the PM’s/Department’s corruption.

Under the FOI Act, I seek copies of invoices given to the Department by AGS in respect of services rendered by AGS related to the public interest disclosure the subject of the above article.

Regards

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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UNCLASSIFIED

FOI/2019/150

 

Dear HW

 

Thank you for your email dated 28 June 2019 to the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet (the Department), in which you made a request to the
Department under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) in the
following terms:

 

I refer to this article:
[1]https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne...
which concerns systemic corruption engaged in by the PM/PM’s Department.

 

I note that the article states that the investigators into that systemic
corruption “recruited two solicitors from the Australian Government
Solicitor (AGS)” to help with the investigation.

 

It’s in the public interest to know how much taxpayer money the PM/his
Department spent on lawyers to paper over the PM’s/Department’s
corruption.

 

Under the FOI Act, I seek copies of invoices given to the Department by
AGS in respect of services rendered by AGS related to the public interest
disclosure the subject of the above article.

 

Timeframe for receiving your decision

 

The Department received your request on 28 June 2019 and the 30 day
statutory period for processing your request commenced from the day after
that date. You should therefore expect a decision from us by 29 July 2019.
The period of 30 days may be extended in certain circumstances. We will
advise you if there is any extension of time.

 

Charges

 

Agencies may decide that an applicant is liable to pay a charge in respect
of a request for access to documents. If the Department decides that you
are liable to pay a charge, we will send you a preliminary assessment of
the charge as soon as possible.

 

Publication of documents

 

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log at
[2]http://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/accountabilit...,
subject to certain exceptions. If you think you might wish to raise any
objections to the publication of any of the information which may be
released to you please contact us by email at [3][DPMC request email].  If you
do wish to object to the publication of information, you would need to
provide supporting reasons.

 

Exclusion of officers’ names and contact details

 

For documents that fall within scope of the request, it is the
Department’s policy to withhold:

·         any person’s signature;

·         the names and contact details of Australian Public Service
officers not in the Senior Executive Service (SES);

·         the mobile or direct numbers of SES officers;

·         the names and contact details of Ministerial staff at a level
below Chief of Staff.

 

The names and other details of SES officers will not be withheld unless
there is some reason for that information to be exempt from release. If
you require signatures, the names and contact details of non-SES officers
or Ministerial staff below the level of Chief of Staff, or the mobile or
direct numbers of SES officers please let us know at [4][DPMC request email] so
the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will take it that you agree
to that information being excluded from the scope of your request (that
is, the information will be treated as irrelevant and redacted from any
documents for release).

 

We will write again when the Department has more information.  Further
information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the Office of
the Australian Information Commissioner at
[5]http://www.oaic.gov.au/foi-portal/about_....

 

Sincerely

 

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [6][DPMC request email] | w. [7]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

[8]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne...
2. http://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/accountabilit...
3. mailto:[DPMC request email]
4. mailto:[DPMC request email]
5. http://www.oaic.gov.au/foi-portal/about_...
6. mailto:[DPMC request email]
7. http://www.pmc.gov.au/

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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UNOFFICIAL

 

FOI/2019/150

 

Dear HW,

 

I refer to the FOI request that you have made to the Department of the
Prime Minister and Cabinet under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the
FOI Act).

 

The decision-maker for your FOI request has advised that before finalising
a decision the Department must conduct third party consultation in
accordance with section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI
Act). Section 27 of the FOI Act provides that where agencies consider that
third parties might reasonably wish to make a contention that the document
is a conditionally exempt document under section 47G, the Department must
not decide to give access to the document unless the third parties are
given a reasonable opportunity to make submissions in support of the
exemption contention.

 

Section 15(6) of the FOI Act further provides that in such circumstances
agencies shall be given another 30 days in which to make all reasonable
efforts to process the FOI request. Consequently, this means that a
decision on your FOI request will now be due by 27 August 2019.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

[3]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/

Link to this

From: FOIDR


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Attachment RQ19 02165 15AB letter to A PMC and HW.pdf
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Our reference: RQ19/02165

Agency reference: FOI/2019/150

Mr H W

 

Sent by email: [1][FOI #5491 email]

Extension of time under s 15AB

Dear Mr W

Please find attached correspondence in relation to the processing of your
FOI request.

Kind regards

[2]O A I C logo   Adie Chang  |  Assistant Review
and Investigation Adviser
(Legal)

Freedom of Information Dispute
Resolution

Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner

GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001  |
 [3]oaic.gov.au

+61 2 9284 9686  |  
[4][email address]
[8]Subscribe [9]Subscribe to
[5]Facebook | [6]LinkedIn | [7]Twitter |   icon Information
Matters

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #5491 email]
2. https://www.oaic.gov.au/
3. http://www.oaic.gov.au/
4. mailto:[email address]
5. http://www.facebook.com/OAICgov
6. https://www.linkedin.com/company/office-...
7. https://twitter.com/OAICgov
9. https://www.oaic.gov.au/media-and-speech...

Link to this

From: HW

Delivered

Dear Department

Further to my request, I’m happy for the Department to black out the names/personalinfo of anyone contained in the invoices. There’s no public interest in that info, but there’s obviously a massive public interest in knowing how much taxpayer money the PM/PM’s Dept spent on investigating his own corrupt staff.

Yours sincerely,

HW

Link to this

From: HW

Delivered

Dear FOI,

Further to my FOI request of 28 June 2019 and my follow up email of 23 August 2019, I note that the Australian Government Solicitors’ hourly rates (ex gst) that it currently charges DPMC are publicly available as follows:

Chief Counsel - $500
Senior Partner - $445
Partner - $395
Senior Associate (EL2) - $320
Senior Associate (EL1) - $280

And the hourly rates (ex GST) that AGS would have charged DPMC during the period to which it provided assistance to DPMC in its investigation of the systemic corruption engaged in by DPMC staff referred to in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne... are publicly available as follows:

Special Counsel - $515-$595
Partner - $460-$510
Senior Associate Lawyer - $355-$375
Lawyer 2-5 years PAE - $295-$320

Those rates being publicly available means that the DPMC cannot lawfully and/or in good faith claim that information contained in the documents the subject of my request are sensitive commercial or professional information that is conditionally or otherwise exempt under s.47G of the FOI Act. But if the DPMC so wishes, I consent to the DPMC redacting the hourly rates charged (and the corresponding time spent by AGS lawyers) as mentioned in relevant documents to be redacted but only on the basis that the total amount listed on each relevant invoice remains unredacted. Again, there is a massive public interest in how much taxpayer money the PM/PM’s Department has spent in investigating/covering up politically motivated systemic corruption engaged in by DPMC staff.

Yours sincerely,
HW

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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Attachment FOI 2019 150 Charges notice.pdf
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OFFICIAL

 

OFFICIAL

 

Dear HW

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your FOI request.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

[3]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/

Link to this

From: HW

Delivered

Dear Mr Heskett

I refer to your decision made yesterday under section 29 of the FOI Act to impose charges for the Department’s processing of my FOI application. I’m writing to advise you that this morning, payment of the specified deposit amount was made directly into DPMC’s Westpac bank account with the BSB/account number details mentioned in your letter to me. Please note that Westpac staff advised that the DPMC reference “FOI/2019/150” that you requested could not be used because their system won’t accept letters or symbols. Instead, the deposit payment has reference number “2019150”. Westpac staff advised that the payment will immediately appear in the Department's nominated Westpac account.

I am also writing to reiterate the general public interest in the information the subject of my request by noting the following.

This article: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne... suggests that the PM’s staff/DPMC staff, who are paid significant amounts of taxpayer monies to do their jobs (including by not breaking the law), acted unlawfully by not adhering to the requirements of the FOI Act and presumably the Public Service Act.

The article states that DPMC engaged the services of two solicitors from AGS for DPMC’s 12 month investigation into that corruption within the Prime Minister’s Department. That engagement is likely to have involved the expenditure of significant taxpayer funds. The taxpaying public has a right to know exactly how much tax payer money the Prime Minister's Department decided to spend on legal services to investigate and paper over the systemic unlawful conduct that went on in the Prime Minister’s Department. Disclosure of that information absolutely supports the effective oversight of public expenditure – a key object of the FOI Act.

The public interest in DPMC’s use of taxpayer funds to investigate and paper over the systemic unlawful conduct within the Prime Minister’s department is heightened in the current environment where there remains persistent public interest in the establishment of a Federal Anti Corruption Commission that could more efficiently consider and deal with unlawful conduct in the Commonwealth public sector including of the type mentioned in the article.

Regards
HW

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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Attachment Review Rights.pdf
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Attachment 2019 150 Decision signed.pdf
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OFFICIAL

 

Dear HW

 

Please find attached the decision in relation to your request.

 

Regards

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

[3]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/

Link to this

From: HW

Delivered

Dear FOI,

I refer the Department to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne... which makes it plain that the PM’s staff/DPMC staff, who are paid significant amounts of taxpayer monies to do their jobs (including by not breaking the law), acted unlawfully by not adhering to the requirements of the FOI Act and presumably the Public Service Act.

The article states that DPMC engaged the services of two solicitors from AGS for DPMC’s 12 month investigation into that corruption within the Prime Minister’s Department. That engagement is likely to have involved the expenditure of significant taxpayer funds. The taxpaying public has a right to know exactly how much tax payer money the Prime Minister's Department decided to spend on legal services to investigate and paper over the systemic unlawful conduct that went on in the Prime Minister’s Department. Disclosure of that information absolutely supports the effective oversight of public expenditure – a key object of the FOI Act.

Under the FOI Act, I request copies of invoices given to the Department by AGS in respect of services rendered by AGS related to the public interest disclosure the subject of the above article.

I note that, in accordance with a decision made by Mr Stephen Heskett (Assistant Secretary of DPMC’s Shared Services Branch) as available here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5... there are only nine invoices/documents relevant to my request. Further, I note that those nine invoices/documents have already been searched for, located and retrieved by DPMC and that I have already paid for the costs associated with DPMC’s searching for, location and retrieval of those nine invoices/documents.

In processing my request, I consent to DPMC redacting all information contained in the relevant documents except for the dollar figure/amount at the end of each of the nine invoices/documents - those nine amounts collectively being the total amount of money billed/invoiced to the Department by AGS in respect of services provided to the Department related to the Department’s investigation of the public interest disclosure the subject of the above article. If processed in accordance with the FOI Act and Public Service Act, the Department will release the relevant nine invoices/documents with all information blacked out, save for the total dollar amounts listed/billed at the end of each of the nine documents/invoices.

The public interest in DPMC’s use of taxpayer funds to investigate and paper over the systemic unlawful conduct within the Prime Minister’s department is heightened in the current environment where there remains persistent public interest in the establishment of a Federal Anti Corruption Commission that could more efficiently consider and deal with unlawful conduct in the Commonwealth public sector including of the type mentioned in the article.

The Australian taxpaying public has a right to know how much taxpayer money DPMC senior executives decided to spend on investigating and papering over the systemic corruption that has taken place in the PM’s Department – particularly noting that that corruption presumably took place because those senior executives chose to turn a blind eye to it and/or imbued a culture of lawlessness within DPMC that facilitated the carrying out of that public sector corruption.

Yours sincerely,

HW

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

Dear HW

 

I refer to your email dated 1 October 2019 and made to the Department of
the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the Department) for access under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the FOI Act) in the following
terms:

 

I refer the Department to this article:
[1]https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne...
...

 

Under the FOI Act, I request copies of invoices given to the Department by
AGS in respect of services rendered by AGS related to the public interest
disclosure the subject of the above article.

 

I note that, in accordance with a decision made by Mr Stephen Heskett
(Assistant Secretary of DPMC’s Shared Services Branch) as available here:
[2]https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5...
there are only nine invoices/documents relevant to my request…

 

In processing my request, I consent to DPMC redacting all information
contained in the relevant documents except for the dollar figure/amount at
the end of each of the nine invoices/documents - those nine amounts
collectively being the  total amount of money billed/invoiced to the
Department by AGS in respect of services provided to the Department
related to the Department’s investigation of the public interest
disclosure the subject of the above article.

 

Timeframe for receiving your decision

 

We received the request on 1 October 2019 and the 30-day statutory period
for processing your request commenced from the day after that date. You
should therefore expect a decision from us by 31 October 2019. The period
of 30 days may be extended in certain circumstances. We will advise you if
there is any extension of time.

 

Charges

 

Agencies may decide that an applicant is liable to pay a charge in respect
of a request for access to documents. If the Department decides that you
are liable to pay a charge, we will send you a preliminary assessment of
the charge as soon as possible.

 

Publication of documents

 

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log at
[3]http://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/accountabilit...,
subject to certain exceptions. If you think you might wish to raise any
objections to the publication of any of the information which may be
released to you please contact us by email at [4][DPMC request email]. If you do
wish to object to the publication of information, you would need to
provide supporting reasons.

 

Exclusion of officers’ names and contact details

 

For documents that fall within scope of the request, it is the
Department’s policy to withhold:

·         any person’s signature;

·         the names and contact details of Australian Public Service
officers not in the Senior Executive Service (SES);

·         the mobile or direct numbers of SES officers;

·         the names and contact details of Ministerial staff at a level
below Chief of Staff.

 

The names and other details of SES officers will not be withheld unless
there is some reason for that information to be exempt from release. If
you require signatures, the names and contact details of non-SES officers
or Ministerial staff below the level of Chief of Staff, or the mobile or
direct numbers of SES officers please let us know at [5][DPMC request email] so
the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will take it that you agree
to that information being excluded from the scope of your request (that
is, the information will be treated as irrelevant and redacted from any
documents for release).

 

We will write again when the Department has more information. Further
information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the Office of
the Australian Information Commissioner at
[6]http://www.oaic.gov.au/foi-portal/about_....

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [7][DPMC request email] | w. [8]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[9]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[10]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[11]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[12]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

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References

Visible links
1. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne...
2. https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5...
3. http://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/accountabilit...
4. mailto:[DPMC request email]
5. mailto:[DPMC request email]
6. http://www.oaic.gov.au/foi-portal/about_...
7. mailto:[DPMC request email]
8. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
9. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
10. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
11. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
12. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

Link to this

From: HW

Delivered

Dear FOI,

I’m writing to apply, under section 54B of the FOI Act, for an internal review of the access refusal decision made by Mr Stephen Heskett, Assistant Secretary, Shared Services Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) (the decision-maker) on 30 September 2019 in response to my request made of DPMC under the FOI Act on 28 June 2019 (my FOI request).

My FOI request was lodged following the publication of this article: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne... which makes it plain that DPMC engaged solicitors from the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) to assist it in its almost year long investigation into DPMC’s systemic non-compliance with the FOI Act. My FOI request was straightforward. I want to know, and the tax paying public has a right to know, how much money (ie. taxpayer/public money) DPMC spent on legal services provided by AGS in respect of that investigation, and so I requested copies of relevant AGS invoices under the FOI Act. Despite that there were just nine invoices concerned, and that those invoices could have been identified and retrieved within a matter of minutes, DPMC prevaricated for 3 months and then imposed an unreasonably high charges estimate in an attempt to hinder the pursuit of my FOI request.

When DPMC was forced to make a decision on my request, the decision-maker made an access refusal decision that contains substantive legal error.

My grounds for requesting review of the access refusal decision made by the decision-maker are as follows.

1. The decision-maker has claimed that information contained in the nine relevant invoices contains advice to which legal professional privilege attaches. It is entirely unlikely that AGS, or any other law firm for that matter, would be so incompetent as to include legal advice to which legal professional privilege attaches in an invoice. While the invoices will disclose the fact that DPMC engaged AGS, and that AGS charged DPMC certain dollar amounts which have subsequently been paid by the Australian public, is not information that can be the subject of legal professional privilege.

2. The decision maker has also erroneously claimed that the nine invoices are exempt under paragraph 37(2)(b) of the FOI Act because disclosure of the contents of those invoices would or could be expected disclose lawful methods or procedures for preventing, detecting, investigating, or dealing with matters arising out of, breaches or evasions of the law the disclosure of which would, or would be reasonably likely to, prejudice the effectiveness of those methods or procedures. However, as the decision-maker has indicated, the FOI Guidelines relevantly state (at [5.81]):

“Section 37 concerns the investigative or compliance activities of an agency and the enforcement or administration of the law, including the protection of public safety. *It is not concerned with an agency’s own obligations to comply with the law.* [emphasis added]. The exemption applies, therefore, where an agency has a function connected with investigating breaches of the law, its enforcement or administration.”

The article referred to above, and the invoices that I seek access to, relate to an internal investigation run by DPMC into whether DPMC complied with its own obligations under the FOI Act. That is, the investigation relates to “an agency’s own obligation to comply with the law”. Therefore paragraph 5.80 of the FOI Guidelines clearly provides that the exemptions set out at s.37 of the FOI Act cannot apply in the current circumstances. Further, while the invoices will disclose the fact that DPMC engaged AGS, and that AGS charged DPMC certain dollar amounts which have subsequently been paid by the Australian public, is not information that can be the subject of an exemption under s.37 of the FOI Act.

3. Further, the FOI Guidelines relevantly state (at [5.111 - 5112]) in relation to the DPMC claimed exemption at s.37(2)(b) that:

“This exemption requires satisfaction of two factors. There must be a reasonable expectation that a document will disclose a method or procedure and a reasonable expectation or a real risk of prejudice to the effectiveness of that investigative method or procedure. If the only result of disclosing the methods would be that those methods were no surprise to anyone, there could be no reasonable expectation of prejudice.

5.112 The exemption will not apply to routine techniques and procedures that are already well known to the public or documents containing general information.”

The article mentioned above, as well as DPMC’s admission that there are nine relevant invoices issued by AGS, makes it a public fact/publicly known that DPMC engaged solicitors from AGS to assist its internal investigation into DPMC’s compliance with the FOI Act. Accordingly, the information that the decision-maker has claimed to be exempt under s.37(2)(b) cannot be exempt because it can hardly be a surprising method or procedure for an agency like DPMC to engage solicitors to assist its investigation of its own compliance with the FOI Act, and in any case, the article above makes that fact publicly known. The fact that DPMC engaged AGS, and that AGS invoiced DPMC certain dollar amounts, payment of which have ultimately been borne by the Australian public, is not information that can be the subject of an exemption under s.37(2)(b) of the FOI Act.

4. I accept however, that it may be at least be arguable that *certain*, but certainly not all, information contained in the relevant nine invoices may be conditionally exempt under paragraphs 47E(c) and (d) of the FOI Act, but only to the extent that information details the particular circumstances of the complaint/investigation at issue. However, the fact that DPMC engaged AGS, and that AGS charged DPMC certain dollar amounts which have subsequently been paid for by the Australian public, is not information that can be the subject of an exemption under s.47E of the FOI Act.

5. Section 22 of the FOI Act applies in circumstances where:

• an agency refuses to give access to an exempt document (as is the case here)
• it is possible for the agency to prepare a copy of the document with redactions of exempt material otherwise in accordance with s.11A (as is the case here, noting that the dollar figures listed as sub-totals and grand totals within the nine relevant invoices could not, lawfully, be considered exempt information under the FOI Act)
• it’s reasonably practicable for the agency to provide an edited copy of the document having regard to the modification and the resources available to modify (noting that DPMC regularly releases redacted versions of documents under the FOI Act and it’s a straightforward task to redact all information from the nine invoices concerned except for the sub-total and grand total dollar amounts mentioned in the invoices – noting also that the OAIC has done just that here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5... and
• it is not apparent that the applicant would decline access to the edited copy (my correspondence with DPMC in relation to my request made it perfectly clear that I, and the taxpaying public, have a legitimate interest in, and a legal right to know, how much public money DPMC spent on external legal counsel to assist its investigation into its systemic contraventions of the FOI Act. For example, my correspondence with DPMC in relation to my FOI request stated:
- “It’s in the public interest to know how much taxpayer money the PM/his Department spent on lawyers to paper over the PM’s/Department’s corruption”; and
- “there’s obviously a massive public interest in knowing how much taxpayer money the PM/PM’s Dept spent on investigating his own corrupt staff”; and
- “The taxpaying public has a right to know exactly how much tax payer money the Prime Minister's Department decided to spend on legal services to investigate and paper over the systemic unlawful conduct that went on in the Prime Minister’s Department. Disclosure of that information absolutely supports the effective oversight of public expenditure – a key object of the FOI Act.”; and
- “The Australian taxpaying public has a right to know how much taxpayer money DPMC senior executives decided to spend on investigating and papering over the systemic corruption that has taken place in the PM’s Department – particularly noting that that corruption presumably took place because those senior executives chose to turn a blind eye to it and/or imbued a culture of lawlessness within DPMC that facilitated the carrying out of that public sector corruption.” )

6. Section 22 of the FOI Act applies to my FOI request by imposing a a legal obligation on the decision-maker to provide me with access to edited copies of the documents the subject of my FOI request that would at least include unredacted information that details the amount of money AGS invoiced DPMC for their legal services noting that the cost of those services has ultimately been borne by the Australian public. But the decision-maker did not comply with the legal obligation imposed on him by s.22 of the FOI Act.

7. I refer to witness testimony given before the Australian Parliament last week by DPMC’s Deputy Secretary, Governance, Ms Stephanie Foster. That testimony was in relation to DPMC’s FOI processing functions. Ms Foster was asked “Does PM&C consider itself an exemplar for the Public Service in relation to compliance with freedom of information laws?

8. In response, (see page 81 of the transcript here: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/dow..., Ms Foster said “We are certainly striving to be a model respondent.”

9. That’s a laudable objective for DPMC and it may be useful for DPMC to know that the Office of the Australian Commissioner (the OAIC) provides guidance and resources that can assist DPMC in taking its first steps towards attaining the lofty goal that Ms Foster has set for DPMC.

10. Relevantly, the OAIC’s functions as disclosed in its corporate plan include to “Develop the freedom of information (FOI) capabilities of Australian Government agencies and ministers, and promote FOI best practice.” (see pg 44 of the OAIC’s most recent annual report).

11. Noting OAIC’s role in promoting and modelling FOI best practice, it is extremely useful for DPMC that the OAIC has recently released documents in response to request under the FOI Act that has exactly the same factual scenario as my FOI request of DPMC. I refer DPMC to the FOI request lodged by “O Wendell” on 16 August 2019 available here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/o... (16 August FOI request).

12. The 16 August FOI request, and the OAIC’s response to it, available here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5... indicates that the applicant sought copies of invoices issued by law firms who had been engaged by the OAIC to assist the OAIC investigate illegal activity allegedly engaged in by the OAIC – ie. exactly the same factual scenario that underpins my FOI request.

13. However, noting OAIC’s role in promoting and modelling FOI best practice amongst Commonwealth agencies, rather than refusing access to the documents requested as DPMC has done, in accordance with the requirements of s.22 of the FOI Act, and in recognition that the applicant and the taxpaying public have a right to know how much public moniey the Government spends on investigating allegedly illegal activity within the public sector, the OAIC partially released the invoices requested, detailing exactly how much public money the OAIC/the Australian public spent on external lawyers to assist its investigation of illegal activity within the OAIC – see here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5...

14. I commend the OAIC’s provision of best practice FOI guidance to DPMC in the current circumstances, and I urge the DPMC to follow that guidance in striving towards the attainment of its goal “to be a model [FOI] respondent”.

Yours sincerely,

HW

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

Dear HW

 

Please find attached the decision in relation to your request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[3]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[4]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[5]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[6]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

 

 

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2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
3. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
4. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
5. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
6. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

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From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

Dear HW

 

Thank you for your email dated 29 October 2019, received by the Department
of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the Department), in which you made a
request for internal review of the Department’s decision on 30 September
2019 in relation to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(the FOI Act) (reference: FOI/2019/150).

 

Timeframe for receiving your internal review decision

 

We received your request for internal review on 29 October 2019 and the
30-day statutory period for internal review commenced from the day after
that date. You should therefore expect a decision from us by 28 November
2019.

 

Publication of documents

 

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log at
[1]http://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/accountabilit...,
subject to certain exceptions. If you think you might wish to raise any
objections to the publication of any of the information which may be
released to you please contact us by email at [2][DPMC request email]. If you do
wish to object to the publication of information, you would need to
provide supporting reasons.

 

Exclusion of officers’ names and contact details

 

For documents that fall within scope of the request, it is the
Department’s policy to withhold:

·         any person’s signature;

·         the names and contact details of Australian Public Service
officers not in the Senior Executive Service (SES);

·         the mobile or direct numbers of SES officers;

·         the names and contact details of Ministerial staff at a level
below Chief of Staff.

 

The names and other details of SES officers will not be withheld unless
there is some reason for that information to be exempt from release. If
you require signatures, the names and contact details of non-SES officers
or Ministerial staff below the level of Chief of Staff, or the mobile or
direct numbers of SES officers please let us know at [3][DPMC request email] so
the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will take it that you agree
to that information being excluded from the scope of your request (that
is, the information will be treated as irrelevant and redacted from any
documents for release).

 

We will write again when the Department has more information. Further
information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the Office of
the Australian Information Commissioner at
[4]http://www.oaic.gov.au/foi-portal/about_....

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [5][DPMC request email] | w. [6]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[7]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[8]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[9]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[10]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[11]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

 

 

 

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1. http://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/accountabilit...
2. mailto:[DPMC request email]
3. mailto:[DPMC request email]
4. http://www.oaic.gov.au/foi-portal/about_...
5. mailto:[DPMC request email]
6. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
7. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
8. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
9. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
10. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

Dear HW

 

I refer to your email, dated 29 October 2019, in which you requested
internal review under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act)
of the 30 September 2019 decision by Mr Stephen Heskett, Assistant
Secretary, Shared Services Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and
Cabinet (The Department), which refused access to your 28 June 2019 FOI
request, as follows:

 

Under the FOI Act, I seek copies of invoices given to the Department by
AGS in respect of services rendered by AGS related to the public interest
disclosure the subject of the above article. (FOI/2019/150)

 

On 1 October 2019, you made a separate request to  the Department in the
following terms:

 

I refer the Department to this article:
[1]https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne...
...

 

Under the FOI Act, I request copies of invoices given to the Department by
AGS in respect of services rendered by AGS related to the public interest
disclosure the subject of the above article.

 

I note that, in accordance with a decision made by Mr Stephen Heskett
(Assistant Secretary of DPMC’s Shared Services Branch) as available here:
[2]https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/5...
there are only nine invoices/documents relevant to my request…

 

In processing my request, I consent to DPMC redacting all information
contained in the relevant documents except for the dollar figure/amount at
the end of each of the nine invoices/documents - those nine amounts
collectively being the  total amount of money billed/invoiced to the
Department by AGS in respect of services provided to the Department
related to the Department’s investigation of the public interest
disclosure the subject of the above article. (FOI/2019/283)

 

Your request for internal review was received by the Department the day
prior to the Department notifying you of its full release decision in
relation to request FOI/2019/283. As the nine invoices (with irrelevant
information redacted) have now been released to you, in full, we would be
grateful for your confirmation that you no longer wish to continue with
the internal review request you submitted in relation to FOI/2019/150.

 

We would be grateful for your reply in writing by Wednesday 20 November
2019.

 

Regards

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [3][DPMC request email] | w. [4]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[5]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[6]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[7]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00 [8]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[9]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: HW

Delivered

Dear FOI,

Please proceed with the internal review as requested.

Yours sincerely,

HW

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

OFFICIAL

 

Dear HW

 

Please find attached the decision in relation to your internal review
request.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[3]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[4]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[5]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[6]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[7]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
3. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
4. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
5. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
6. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

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