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Friday, August 17, 2012

Victoria-same old story

Once again the Victorian Ombudsman laments the state of administration of the Freedom of Information Act. He won't be sorry perhaps to see his role, and added responsibilities go off to the yet to be appointed FOI commissioner. It's a big job for someone-but who?
 Annual Report 2012, Part 1.pdf (790KB) -FOI at p 55 with plenty of case studies to support his point:
It is disappointing that, increasingly, FOI is not complied with by departments and agencies in the spirit of the Attorney-General’s guidelines. Departments and agencies seem increasingly to have forgotten that the Freedom of Information Act was intended to be a means of increasing the openness and transparency of government, not a means to justify delay and non-release of information based on technical, tedious and tenuous interpretations of the Act. This trend may explain the increase in complaints to my office. Many of the matters brought to me involve agencies relying on an excuse not to release a document. However, I have not been able to look into the merits of the decision...
Mr Brouwer remains hopeful, at the same time giving a polite ombudsmanlike nudge that the government's much trumpeted big step forward isn't all it's cracked up to be:
 With the creation of the new Freedom of Information Commissioner under the
Freedom of Information Amendment (Freedom of Information Commissioner)
Act 2011, FOI will no longer be within my jurisdiction. The new Act replaces the
internal reviews conducted within agencies with external reviews conducted
by the Commissioner. This change to the administration of FOI should promote
more open, prompt and accurate FOI decision making in agencies. There are,
however, limitations in the new framework which may reduce the effectiveness
of the changes introduced by the new Act. Those limitations, which include the
exclusion of documents claimed to be cabinet documents from the external
review process, and the exclusion of Ministerial offices from that process, may
need to be reviewed by the government in coming years in order to ensure that
the improvements that the new regime could achieve can actually be attained.
Delay was the biggest complaint-and this with 45 days!! Stern letters were sent to the Secretaries of the Departments of Human Services, Justice, Premier and Cabinet, Health and Primary Industries critical of failures to deal with these requests in a timely manner.

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