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THE STATE OF FREEDOM OF
INFORMATION IN VICTORIA

FIVE YEARS IN REVIEW
2014 - 2019

COMPLAINTS

An applicant may make a complaint to OVIC about an agency, arising from an FOI request, regarding:

  • a delay in handling the FOI request;
  • a decision that a requested document does not exist or cannot be located; or
  • an action taken, or failed to be taken, by a principal officer in the performance or purported performance of their functions and obligations under Part IB (Professional Standards) or Part II (publication of certain documents and information).1

From 2014 to 2019, there was a 51.98% increase in the number of complaints OVIC received, from 243 to 506 complaints respectively (Table 14). The number of agencies to which complaints related also increased in this period, from 72 to 107 respectively (Table 14).

From 2014 to 2019, common complaints to OVIC related to:

  • decisions that a document did not exist or could not be located;
  • inadequate searches for documents; and
  • delays in processing requests within the statutory timeframe.2

Most complaints were made by members of the public. In 2018-19, 95% of complaints were made by members of the public, 2% were made by organisations, 2% were made by Members of Parliament and 1% were made by the media.3

The increased number of complaints likely reflects the increased number of requests received and the decisions made, which enlivens complaints rights to OVIC. It may also be due to a greater awareness of OVIC’s complaint functions. Following commencement of the Professional Standards, this upwards trend is likely to continue.

Table 14: Number of complaints received by OVIC and the number of agencies to which complaints related from 2014 to 2019

  1. Section 61A(1) of the FOI Act. In the case of a Minister, a complaint can be made about a delay in dealing with a request; a decision that a requested document does not exist, or cannot be located; a decision to defer giving access to a document; or a decision to release a document containing personal or business affairs information.
  2. Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, OVIC Annual Report 2018-19, 68 (https://ovic.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/OVIC-Annual-Report-2018-19.pdf); Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, OVIC Annual Report 2017-18, 44 (https://ovic.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/OVIC-2017-18-Annual-Report.pdf); Office of the Freedom of Information Commissioner, FOIC Annual Report 2016-17, 33 (https://ovic.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/FOIC-Annual-Report-2016-2017.pdf); Office of the Freedom of Information Commissioner, FOIC Annual Report 2015-16, 31 (https://ovic.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/FOIC-Annual-Report-2015-2016.pdf); Office of the Freedom of Information Commissioner, FOIC Annual Report 2014-15, 29 (https://ovic.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/FOIC-Annual-Report-2014-2015-copy.pdf).
  3. Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, OVIC Annual Report 2018-19, 68 (https://ovic.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/OVIC-Annual-Report-2018-19.pdf). 
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