Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NSW ADT FOI decision highlights agency shortcomings

We all know that the standards for administration of Freedom of Information responsibilities vary considerably. Matthew Moore and his "What they won't tell you" column in the Sydney Morning Herald has provided plenty of evidence over the last 12 months that standards in some agencies, state and Federal leave a lot to be desired.

The detail of how the agency dealt with the application, in this decision P v Greater Western Area Health Service (2007) NSWADT 87 by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, reveals that the Greater Western Area Health Service needs to lift its game considerably.

Acting Deputy President Handley substantially overturned the agency decision to refuse access to documents sought by the applicant. In the course of his decision (paragraphs 25 and following) he noted that the application had not been dealt with in accordance with the Act's requirements, that parts of documents released before the matter came to the ADT had only been made available after intervention of the Ombudsman, some documents to be released were missing from those provided to the applicant, FOI application fees were mislaid, and promised phone calls were not returned.

The Health Service didn't do itself any favours by arguing before the Tribunal that it "believes it has need to "draw a line in the sand" in relation to the quantity of time, energy, and resources that it commits to providing information that is not relevant to the business it is endeavouring to carry out and the fundamental services it provides to the community".

Sounds like it's news to them that since 1989, members of the public have a legally enforceable right of access to documents held by an agency. It's called the NSW Freedom of Information Act.

"P" unfortunately had to wait for over a year to get hold of documents, but showed that tenacity as well as patience is necessary when pursuing this right with this Health Service.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:27 pm

    I know the pain and anguish this person has been through and I would like to publish by wholehearted congratulations. The courage and determination shown is inspiring. My advice to those who have difficulties with government departments and/or dig your heals in and never give up hope. Seek assistance and support where ever you can and don't forget that serendipity will be on your side!!!