The FOI Act provides the public with the right to request access to documents held by Victorian public sector agencies.1 This right of access is only subject to exceptions and exemptions necessary to protect essential public and private interests.
OVIC reports annually to Parliament on the operation of the FOI Act.2 In preparing these annual reports, OVIC collects data from around 1,000 agencies subject to the FOI Act through an electronic survey.3 OVIC uses this data to report on the state of FOI in Victoria for the financial year, and in some instances to provide multi-year comparisons to illustrate trends.
The purpose of this report is to:
- provide a five year overview of the state of FOI in Victoria from 2014 to 2019;
- review the administration of the FOI Act by agencies during this period;
- measure the effectiveness of FOI in Victoria; and
- identify areas for improvement.
It is hoped this report will improve understanding of the FOI Act in Victoria and how the public’s right to access information can be better promoted and protected.
The report aims to facilitate a discussion around transparency, open government and what FOI in Victoria should look like in the future.
WHAT WE REVIEWED
This report was compiled by reviewing existing FOI data held by OVIC for the purpose of preparing its annual reports. The review examined FOI data from 2014 to 2019 relating to:
Requests received – the number of FOI requests received, the percentage of personal and non-personal requests, and the top five agencies that received the highest number of FOI requests;
Decision making – the number of FOI decisions agencies made, the timeliness of agency decision making, the outcomes of agency decision making (the breakdown of decisions to grant access in full, grant access in part, or deny access in full), and the most commonly used exemptions;
Reviews – the number of reviews received by OVIC and VCAT, and the outcomes of review decisions (the breakdown of review decisions that differed from the original FOI decision compared with the decisions which agreed with it);
Complaints – the number and nature of complaints received by OVIC, and the number of agencies that were the subject of a complaint;
Costs – the cost of applying for access to documents under the FOI Act to applicants, including application fees and access charges, and the cost to agencies in administering the FOI Act; and
Challenges – the main challenges agencies experienced by agencies in administering the FOI Act.
CONSISTENCY OF DATA
The data relied on in this report was provided by approximately 1,000 agencies subject to the FOI Act. Data was provided through an electronic survey for the purpose of compiling OVIC’s annual reports. The data relates to FOI requests that met the definition of a request under section 17. Section 17 requires that a request for access to a document be made in writing, provide sufficient information to enable the identification of the document sought and be accompanied by an application fee, unless the application fee is waived or reduced in specific circumstances.
Unless otherwise cited, all data relates to agency FOI matters and was identified, collated and reported by each agency. The data reflects the information held and reported by agencies and agencies are responsible for the accuracy of the data provided.
- Section 13 of the FOI Act.
- Section 64 of the FOI Act; all FOI annual reports, including historic reports, are available on OVIC’s website here: https://ovic.vic.gov.au/about-us/annual-reports/.
- This data is available in OVIC’s annual reports here: https://ovic.vic.gov.au/about-us/annual-reports/; and also on www.data.vic.gov.au by searching for ‘report on operation of FOI Act’.