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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Litany of problems revealed in office of Victorian FOI Commissioner

Farrah Tomazin in The Sunday Age summarises the report commissioned in April by the Department of Premier and Cabinet into the office of Victorian FOI commissioner Lynne Bertolini​ that exposes "a litany of problems, including "unusual" procurement practices, unmet targets, and "poor conduct" towards some staff."
"The final report, now with Parliament's joint accountability and oversight committee, paints the picture of a dysfunctional office, with "poor conduct" towards the two assistant commissioners; a backlog of reviews and complaints by people seeking FOI documents; and favouritism towards some staff, with "considerable anxiety and stress" among others. It also reveals:
  • Since December 2012 the FOI office spent $825,946 on contracts with two selected legal service providers when equivalent organisations in NSW, Queensland and the federal sphere use little or no external legal advice.
  • A further $55,000 was spent to hire the Agenda Group for three days of work, including a former executive and colleague from the gambling regulator.
  • The average time taken to complete an FOI review was 90.4 days – well in excess of the government's 30-day target. Ms Bertolini completed 130 reviews between last October and April this year, but her assistant commissioners Michael Ison​ and Rachel Westaway​ had only been assigned a combined 19 reviews over the same period."
Ms Bertolini announced her intention to stand down three weeks ago, effective last Saturday.

Legislation to create the Andrews government answer, a new Office of the Public Access Counsellor, is expected early next year.

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