The standards are the new benchmark for Victorian government agencies in administering their responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act and establish "overarching principles to steer Agencies' conduct in their handling of freedom of information matters, with a view to making their actions of the highest standard."
The standards are mostly statements of what you hope you could expect of government in handling your FOI application.
But the act, Section 6M, provides that the Principal Officer of an agency "must ensure that any officer or employee of the agency concerned in the operation of this Act complies with any professional standards that are prescribed by the regulations in performing his or her functions under this Act."
That plus this principle in the Standards seems to constitute a performance commitment that may be the first of its kind for, us at least - any comments?
Principal Officers have a responsibility to:
No mention under timeliness in the Standards of contact with the minister's office, a subject addressed in the Department of Justice Practice Notes issued until 2012 that are still up on the internet. Practice Note 10
“Where a decision relates to a Minister’s portfolio and/or where a Minister could be asked by the media or in Parliament to comment or explain about the response to the request or the contents of the documents once disclosed, or they are sensitive in any way, the agency is to provide a brief to the Minister. This is to be done five days prior to the proposed finalisation…”The Ombudsman years ago raised concern about long delays as decisions sat in ministers' offices awaiting 'noting' and The Greens Greg Barber highlighted interference by ministerial staff in decision making as a result.
In cases where the agency needs to brief the Minister, the five-day noting period needs to factored into how the agency divides the processing time of a maximum of 45 days."
I don't know if the Freedom of information Commissioner has delved into that practice, but after 29 November it all starts again.
The Accountability Roundtable is keeping track of what the major parties say they will do if elected.
A comprehensive review of the Victorian act which shows all the signs of 1983 thinking, and holding principal officers to those professional standards should be high on the list of whoever wins.