I continue to identify... corrupt behaviour and misconduct brought to my attention by whistleblowers ..and the inappropriate application of freedom of information legislation.....I have.. noticed an increasing trend for some agencies to adopt a protective and adversarial position, in an attempt to hamper my ability to receive documents or information necessary to complete investigations. This is seen from unnecessary delays in the provision of information to my investigators and an unwillingness to be open to scrutiny as is apparent from the increased reliance on legal arguments, including extremely tenuous legal arguments, as a justification for refusals to provide information and documents or as a justification for proposals that seek to narrow my jurisdiction.This protective attitude is indicative of a culture of denial in the organisations concerned, an unwillingness to be open and transparent to the body charged by the Parliament with the public sector investigative function and is not in the long term interest of the organisations concerned or of the public. It also indicates a need for legislative changes to oblige all organisations to be fully open and transparent to my investigations....The long term benefit of external scrutiny (of ministerial advisers and elected officials) is clear: maintaining public confidence in good government. However my current jurisdiction over elected officials and Ministerial advisers relies on either a parliamentary referral or a whistleblower disclosure. Otherwise the conduct of elected officials and Ministerial advisers cannot be the subject of my investigations unless they are required as witnesses for my investigations.
I continue to see departments and agencies applying the Act as an information protection system. I regularly identify:
• significant delays in processing requests
• restrictive interpretations of the Act
• administrative actions that are contrary to or simply disregard the Attorney General’s guidelines and the administrative recommendations from my 2006 review.
My review of the Act in 2006 revealed that delay in processing FOI requests was still a regular occurrence within Victorian departments.18 I also expressed concern about the poor quality of reasons for decisions, the poor level of assistance to applicants and other internal practices. Five years after that review, non-compliance with the Act persists.