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Thursday, December 04, 2008

FOI procedural complexities- keep on trucking.

In an unusual Freedom of Information matter before the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, the issue of the Tribunal's powers to refer a matter to the Ombudsman has again emerged.In this case the agency decided to release requested documents; a third party who unsuccessfully argued to the agency they should not be released on business affairs grounds, and applied for review by the Tribunal, then sought to stay those proceedings while it asked the Ombudsman to investigate the conduct of the agency officers involved; and the agency argued that taking it off to the Ombudsman meant the matter couldn't come back to the Tribunal. All clear on that?

The Tribunal in Damorange Pty Ltd v Roads and Traffic Authority [2008] NSWADT 309 decided there was no barrier to referring the matter to the Ombudsman, and ordered the parties back to a round-table to work out what to do next.

The substantive issues in the case are yet to be addressed.The applicant, Michael McKinnon, FOI Editor of 7 Network, sought documents from the RTA "relating to Safe T Cam produced in the last three years showing, for each year:

1. The number of (a) cars and (b) trucks caught travelling at excessive speeds including the highest speeds recorded each year.

2. The number of trucks travelling beyond prescribed hours. I am also interested in any documents showing repeat offenders in relation to exceeding prescribed hours and documents showing whether drivers from any particular company or firm are consistently breaching prescribed hour limitations,

3. The number of (a) unregistered cars and (b) unregistered trucks.

4. Incidences where drivers have attempted to avoid detection by Safe-T-Cam."

Just how any of the documents contain information "concerning"-that is "about' or "regarding"- the business affairs of Damorange, or involve disclosure of information that would have an unreasonable adverse effect on those affairs, remains to be seen. A search on the web shows Damorange is a trucking company. The rest is left to the imagination until the Ombudsman or the ADT in a subsequent decision reveals more, or Network 7 runs the story.

Procedural and jurisdictional issues take up an inordinate amount of ADT time and resources.There have to be better answers in the interests of those involved and the poor old taxpayer.

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