Unacceptable levels of delay in FOI decisions in Victoria
Victorians waiting 29 weeks for an FOI decision from Victoria Police
Today the Victorian Information Commissioner published a report about ongoing delays in government responses to freedom of information (FOI) requests.
The report provides an update to an earlier investigation report, Impediments to timely FOI and information release, which was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on 1 September 2021.
“Unfortunately, the level of delay experienced by many Victorians seeking access to government information has gotten worse in the last twelve months,” said Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel.
Under the FOI Act, agencies must respond to an FOI request in 30 to 45 days. Today’s report shows that Victoria Police’s FOI backlog has grown significantly, and that people are often waiting six months for a response to their FOI request.
“This is an unacceptable level of delay and deprives Victorians of an important right,” said Mr Bluemmel.
The Commissioner’s investigation examined the extent and causes of delay at Victoria Police, the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS), the Department of Transport (DOT), Frankston City Council and Alfred Health.
Today’s report shows that, twelve months on, considerable delays on FOI decisions still exist at Victoria Police, DJCS and DOT.
“When people make an FOI request, their need is often time critical. They might need information to help them make an important choice, to use in a legal matter or criminal defence, or to support advocacy to government before it makes a decision.”
Victorians are exercising their rights to access government information more than ever. In 2021-22, Victorians made 43,978 FOI requests to Victorian government agencies and Ministers. This is an all-time record for FOI requests made in a single year, in any Australian jurisdiction.
The Information Commissioner made 16 recommendations to the five agencies, and also recommended that the Victorian Government conduct a public, consultative, and wide-ranging review of the FOI Act.
“While Victoria was the first state in Australia to introduce FOI laws, the FOI Act has not been substantially reviewed since 1982”, said Mr Bluemmel. “This report highlights why now, more than ever, reform of the FOI Act is needed to once again make Victoria a leader in transparency.”
For media enquiries contact:
t: (03) 8684 7585
For enquiries about freedom of information in Victoria contact:
Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC)
t: 1300 006 842