Search This Blog

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dark FOI days prompt call for top FOI success stories

Taro Taylor- Wikimedia Commons
Dark days for Freedom of Information here but clouds are gathering elsewhere including the UK where new Justice Secretary Michael Gove is said to have a cutback agenda that extends to introduction of charging for 'thinking time' in the course of a decision.

('Thinking time' charges are a painful FOI reality in all Australian jurisdictions and have been for years. One example, The Canberra Times request this year for documents from Finance going back 12 months that explained delays in completing the $6.4 million renovations project at the Prime Minister's Lodge - $3759 all up including charges for 176 hours to decide what could be released. And the decision? Not in the public interest to release the documents, nor to waive costs. Ah dear.) 

But I digress....
As part of the coverage of the yet to be unveiled cutback agenda in the UK, The Daily Mail published this list of Scandals We Wouldn't Have Known About Without FOI Powers:
 • The MPs expenses scandal would not have been exposed if not for the FoI Act. Discs containing receipts and submissions from MPs to the Parliamentary authorities were being redacted for release under Freedom of Information rules when they were leaked.
  • Graham Knight, the father of an RAF Sergeant among 14 servicemen killed when a Nimrod jet exploded in Afghanistan in 2006, used FoI to discover that the RAF was aware of fuel leak problems with the aircraft.
  • The ‘spider letters’ from Prince Charles to government departments in which he warned about military helicopters in Iraq and lobbied in favour of homeopathy would have remained hidden.
  • More than 1,100 care home deaths were linked to dehydration over a nine-year period and more than 300 deaths to severe malnourishment, according to documents obtained under the Act.
  • An FoI request by the Daily Mail revealed a prisoner was given the right to taxpayer-funded IVF while behind bars by using human rights laws.
  • More than 10,000 criminals escaped prosecution for serious violent assaults by saying sorry in a single year. FoI requests showed the police’s widespread use of ‘community resolutions’.
  • It was found that disgraced peer Lord Janner made three visits to Parliament months after police were told he was too ill to be questioned over child abuse allegations.
  • The Mail revealed how hospitals were paid millions to hit targets for patients who died on the Liverpool Care Pathway, which has now been scrapped.
That prompted thinking about an Australian list. 

The Daily Mail loves 'scandals' but we don't need to be so limited. Your nominations please
Australia's Top Disclosures We Wouldn't Know About Without FOI.
Four off the top of my head to start:

Reserve Bank Board minutes published commencing in 2007 following Michael McKinnon's FOI digging going back to 2004.

Exposure of Australia’s first case of foreign bribery as a result of investigations that included FOI by Richard Baker and Nick Mckenzie revealing that Securency, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia had paid million-dollar commissions to win global banknote contracts.

Information about breaches of food hygiene standards starting in NSW and extending to other parts of the country (maybe still not everywhere?) following Matthew Moore's FOI campaign.

Revelations about Australian knowledge of, and involvement in detention practices in Iraq and Afghanistan by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, based on documents obtained after a six year FOI battle, raised many questions about policy, accountability and transparency going back to 2003.

Important FOI disclosures or scandals welcome by way of comment, email or tweet or direct message @FOIguru

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:25 pm

    Thanks for this blog. it's providing solace and inspiration to a freelance journalist who's just received a charges notice of over $2000 from the Dept of Health. The explanation of the charges, as per 4.4 in the AIOC guidelines? Well, there's 'decision making time' and 'search and retrieval' involved, you see!