Agency FOI Information Service Guidelines
The purpose of this document is to set out the guiding principles for Victorian public sector organisations (agencies) utilising OVIC’s Agency FOI Information Service (the service).
The service aims to provide agencies with free tailored information and guidance on:
- the administration and operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (the FOI Act); and
- obligations and compliance with the FOI Professional Standards.
Information and guidance will be provided by experienced and skilled OVIC staff.
The service reflects the functions of the Information Commissioner and Public Access Deputy Commissioner under section 6I of the FOI Act, including to:
- promote understanding and acceptance by agencies of the FOI Act and the object of the FOI Act;
- provide advice, education and guidance to agencies in relation to compliance with the FOI Professional Standards; and
- provide advice, education and guidance to agencies in relation to the Commissioners’ functions, such as the conduct of reviews and complaint handling.
Agencies can access the service by submitting a request for information or guidance via email to a dedicated email address: AskFOI@ovic.vic.gov.au
Agencies that are uncertain as to whether their query can be answered by the service are encouraged to use the service in the first instance.
Responses to queries will be provided in 1 to 5 business days, depending on the complexity of the query.
If more time is required, OVIC staff will advise the agency.
Responses to queries will be provided by either email or telephone.
Availability of the service
- The service is available for use by agencies only.
- Queries from members of the public on the FOI Act should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Guidance is also available on OVIC’s website at www.ovic.vic.gov.au
Information and guidance provided by the service
- OVIC can provide information and guidance on how the FOI Act is to be interpreted, in accordance with the object of the Act.
- OVIC can provide guidance on how the FOI exemptions should be administered and interpreted.
- OVIC can provide information relating to previous similar decisions made by its Commissioners.
- OVIC can advise on best practice in administrating the FOI Act.
- OVIC can provide information about an agency’s obligations under and compliance with the
FOI Professional Standards.
- OVIC can provide information and guidance on the informal and proactive release of information.
- OVIC can provide information regarding third party consultation requirements under the FOI Act.
- OVIC can provide general information and guidance about estimating and calculating access charges.
- OVIC can provide a view on a hypothetical situation.
- OVIC remains impartial and independent.
Limitations on the service
- OVIC staff will not advise as to whether information or a document is exempt or not exempt under the FOI Act.
- OVIC will not advise an Agency on what decision to make.
- OVIC will not assess documents.
- OVIC staff will not provide legal advice.
- OVIC staff will not review information or documents subject to an FOI request.
- The service will not be used in relation to current complaints or reviews being considered by OVIC.
Information required to use the service
When accessing the service, an agency should include the following information to assist OVIC in responding to a query:
- Any relevant background or contextual information to the query.
- De-identified details of the subject matter and/or the applicant when discussing or describing the query with OVIC.
- The outcome sought to be achieved from the query.
- Any urgency or sensitivities in OVIC providing a response. For example, where a response is urgently required, please advise OVIC of the requested due date and reason why a response is required by that date.
Prior to accessing the service, agencies are encouraged to consider the resources currently available on OVIC’s website:
- OVIC’s practice notes at https://ovic.vic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/for-agencies/practice-notes/
- OVIC’s published review decisions at https://ovic.vic.gov.au/decision/
- Any relevant VCAT cases available.
- OVIC newsletters available on OVIC’s website and by subscription at https://ovic.vic.gov.au/monthly-newsletters/
- OVIC agency templates at https://ovic.vic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/for-agencies/freedom-of-information-agency-templates/