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Monday, July 31, 2006

Gloomy FOI news to start the week

Critics say it hasn’t taken long – 18 months after the FOI Act became fully operational – but a leaked Cabinet document in the UK reveals a proposal to increase fees with a prediction that this will lead to a 17% reduction in applications. The Act already provides that an agency can refuse a request if time involved in the processing would cost more than UK600 pounds (about $A2300) or UK450 pounds for a local authority but there is no current charge for locating or reading the documents.

At the other end of the spectrum in the US where FOI has been in place for 40 years, a report by the Government Accountability Office says response times for applications have slowed markedly and the problem is getting worse. Critics there say urgent action is needed to provide incentives for agencies to deal with their legislative obligations.

Meanwhile in Australia media experience continues to highlight weaknesses identified in a myriad of reports by ombudsmen and other review bodies about slow and inadequate responses to applications. The FOI in the news item posted below includes reports by the Daily Telegraph that it took a year (and Ombudsman intervention) to produce documents concerning the NSW Police Training College and by the Sydney Morning Herald that it took a year to get access to a document concerning illegal land clearing.

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