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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Information Commissioner challenges

As NSW goes about setting up the Office of Information Commissioner and finding someone to fill the job, the Acting Information Commissioner in Queensland comes to grips with new legislative responsibilities, the new West Australian Information Commissioner Sven Bluemell settles in, and the Federal Government continues to mull over legislation to establish its Office of Information Commissioner, a timely reminder from the UK that more than good intentions are needed to make this kind of set up work:

"Long delays by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in investigating freedom of information complaints are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act, according to a new report by the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

The report analyses nearly 500 formal decision notices issued by the ICO in the 18 months to 31 March 2009. The decisions were made under the FOI Act and the associated Environmental Information Regulations. It finds that -

  • on average it took 19.7 months from the date of a complaint to the ICO to the date on which the ICO’s decision on the complaint was issued
  • in 46% of cases it took between 1 and 2 years from complaint to decision
  • a quarter of formal decisions took between 2 and 3 years while 5% of cases (23 complaints) took more than 3 years
  • the longest case took 3 years and 10 and a half months
  • only 24% of decisions were issued within 12 months of the complaint.

The report also found that on average the ICO’s investigation into a complaint did not begin until 8 months after the complaint had been received. In 28% of cases, there was a delay of more than a year before the investigation began and 19 cases waited more than 18 months. One complaint had been with the ICO for 22 months before the investigation began."

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