Chapter Nine — Agency freedom of information activity

 Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Requests for access to documents
  3. Applications for amendment of personal records
  4. Charges
  5. Review of FOI decisions
  6. Complaints about agency FOI actions
  7. Impact of FOI on agency resources
  8. Impact of Information Publication Scheme on agency resources
  9. OAIC expenditure on FOI functions

 Overview

This chapter has been prepared using data collected from ministers and agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). Ministers and agencies are required to provide, among other details, information about:

  • the number of freedom of information (FOI) requests made to them
  • the number of decisions they made granting, partially granting or refusing access, and the number and outcome of applications for internal review
  • the number and outcome of requests to them to amend personal records
  • charges collected by them.1

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) maintains a web-based system for the electronic lodgement of FOI statistical information by agencies. It collects information about agencies' use of exemptions, practical refusal processes, and staff resources and other costs associated with compliance with Information Publication Scheme (IPS) provisions.

The data given by ministers and agencies for the preparation of this annual report is published on the OAIC website.

 Requests for access to documents

Types of FOI requests

The term 'FOI request' means a request for access to documents under s 15 of the FOI Act. Applications for amendment or annotation of personal records under s 48 are dealt with separately below.

The FOI Act requires that agencies and ministers provide access to documents in response to requests that meet the requirements of s 15 of the FOI Act. The figures in this report do not take account of applications that did not satisfy those requirements.

Numbers of FOI requests received

Table 9.1 provides a comparison of the number of FOI requests received in each of the last five reporting years. Chart 9.2 (see later in chapter) shows the total number of FOI requests received each year since the commencement of the FOI Act in 1982.

Table 9.1 Total FOI requests received 2008–09 to 2012–13
2008–09
2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
27,561
21,587
23,605
24,764
24,944

Following the FOI reforms that commenced in November 2010, FOI request numbers have increased, although not to the peak levels experienced in 2003–04. The rate of increase since the 2010 reforms has slowed. Australian Government agencies received 24,944 FOI requests in 2012–13, a small (0.7%) increase on the number received in the previous year. Request numbers increased 4.9% in 2011–12 and 9.3% in 2010–11.

In recent years, agencies have reported anecdotally that the number of requests for documents and information, both within and outside the FOI Act, has increased. This may be due in part to greater awareness of the right of access under the FOI Act and of information rights generally following the commencement of the FOI reforms and the establishment of the OAIC.

FOI requests for personal information and for other information

Since 2000–01, agencies and ministers have reported separately the number of FOI requests received for documents containing personal information and for documents containing 'other' information. A request for personal information means a request for documents that contain information about a person who can be identified. A request for 'other' information means a request for all other documents, such as documents concerning policy development and government decision making.

19,827 (or 79.5%) of all FOI requests in 2012–13 were for documents containing personal information. The percentage of such requests has decreased from 80.7% in 2011–12 and 82.6% in 2010–11. Some of this decrease can be attributed to system and process improvements in some larger agencies that has led to the release of personal information outside of the FOI Act.

Number of FOI requests received by different agencies

In 2012–13, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) continued to receive the majority of FOI requests (69.3% of the total). Commonly, the bulk of requests to these agencies are from customers or clients seeking access to documents containing their own personal information or case file information.

The 20 agencies that received the largest number of requests in 2012–13 are shown in Table 9.2, with a comparison to the number of requests each received in 2011–12. The top five agencies in 2012–13 are the same as those in 2011–12: DIAC, DVA, DHS, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT).

DIAC's request numbers increased by 561 in 2012–13 (a 6.3% increase over 2011–12) and its proportion of the total number of requests received by Australian Government agencies increased from 36.0% in 2011–12 to 37.7% in 2012–13. However, DVA, DHS and the ATO all experienced decreases in the number of requests received (3.5%, 4.2% and 9.9% respectively) and in their proportions of the total number of requests received by Australian Government agencies.

As noted above, the total number of requests received increased only slightly (0.7%) in 2012–13. However, no clear trend in request numbers emerges across the Australian Government. In 2012–13, some agencies in the top 20 experienced significant increases in the number of requests received: for example, the Australian Postal Corporation (a 98.9% increase); the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE — 97.6%); the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA — 51.5%); ComSuper (47.0%); the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs — 25.9%); the Department of Defence (24.0)%; and the Australian Federal Police (AFP — 23.4%).

However, other top 20 agencies experienced significant decreases in request numbers: the Attorney-General's Department (AGD — 33.8%); the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA — 23.5%); the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT — 12.0%); and the Department of the Treasury (11.0%).

Four agencies that appeared in last year's top 20 agencies have experienced significant decreases in their numbers of FOI requests and no longer appear in the top 20: the Commonwealth Ombudsman (requests decreased by 57.1% in 2012–13); the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) (26.7%); Comcare (25.8%), and the Department of Finance and Deregulation (16.1%).

The increase in the number and proportion of FOI requests for other (non-personal) information continued in 2012–13, with a 7.1% increase. This follows a 16.4% increase in 2011–12 and a 48.4% increase in 2010–11. These increases have a significant impact on agencies because non-personal requests typically require more agency resources to process than requests for personal information. Over the past three years, the combined increase in the number of FOI requests for non-personal information has been 85.1%.

FOI requests determined

In 2012–13, agencies and ministers processed FOI requests as follows (previous year figures are in round brackets):

  • on hand at the beginning of the year: 2411 (2849)
  • received during the year: 24,944 (24,764)
  • requiring determination (ie on hand at the beginning of the year or received during the year): 27,355 (27,613)
  • withdrawn: 2077 (2034)
  • transferred: 833 (909)
  • determined (ie access granted in full or in part, or refused): 21,764 (22,237)
  • finalised (ie withdrawn, transferred or determined): 24,674 (25,180)
  • on hand at the end of the year (ie requiring determination but not finalised): 2681 (2433).

The number of FOI requests on hand at the end of 2012–13 was 10.2% more than at the end of 2011–12. This increase in the number of requests on hand may reflect the greater proportion of non-personal requests received by agencies in the past year. Such requests may take longer to process and consume more agency resources.

The number of requests transferred to other agencies decreased by 8.4% in 2012–13. However, this follows significant increases in the number of transfers over each of the previous three reporting years. The number of requests transferred in 2012–13 (833) is comparable to the number transferred in 2010–11 (861). The large number of transfers may be the result of the increase in non-personal requests since the 2010 reforms. Such requests may be more complex and applicants may not in the first instance address their request to the agency that holds the documents they seek. Another contributing factor may be that a higher proportion of such documents relate to joint agency activity.

The increase in the number of transferred requests has the potential to lead to delays in FOI processing if the transferring agencies fail to quickly action those transfers.

Table 9.2 Top 20 agencies by numbers of FOI requests received
 
2011–12
 
2012–13
 
Change
Total
AGENCY
Rank
Personal
Other
Total
%
Rank
Personal
Other
Total
%
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
1
8667
171
8838
36.0
1
8911
488
9399
37.7
+561
Department of Veterans' Affairs
2
4379
22
4401
17.9
2
4115
130
4245
17.0
-156
Department of Human Services
3
3716
75
3791
15.4
3
3512
120
3632
14.6
-159
Australian Taxation Office
4
385
588
973
4.0
4
357
520
877
3.5
-96
Migration Review Tribunal
5
467
0
467
1.9
5
553
1
554
2.2
+87
Australian Federal Police
7
277
104
381
1.6
6
356
114
470
1.9
+89
Department of Defence
11
195
139
334
1.4
7
232
182
414
1.7
+80
Refugee Review Tribunal
6
380
6
386
1.6
8
343
21
364
1.5
-22
Trade Marks Office
9
0
362
362
1.5
9
0
332
332
1.3
-30
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
8
233
136
369
1.5
10
178
151
329
1.3
-40
Department of Health and Ageing
10
8
353
361
1.5
11
4
272
276
1.1
-85
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
13
78
192
270
1.1
12
53
198
251
1.0
-19
Attorney-General's Department
12
102
212
314
1.3
13
58
150
208
0.8
-106
ComSuper
19
131
1
132
0.5
14
187
7
194
0.8
+62
Australian Postal Corporation*
-
88
5
93
0.4
15
130
55
185
0.7
+92
Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education*#
-
23
60
83
0.3
16
88
76
164
0.7
+81
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
15
75
100
175
0.7
17
68
86
154
0.6
-21
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority*
-
0
99
99
0.4
18
0
150
150
0.6
+51
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service*
-
41
75
116
0.5
19
51
95
146
0.6
+30
Department of the Treasury
17
9
146
155
0.6
20
8
130
138
0.6
-17
Top 20
-
19,369^
2948^
22,317^
90.1
-
19,204
3278
22,482
90.1
+382
Remaining agencies
-
619
1828
2447
9.9
-
623
1839
2462
9.9
+15
Total
-
19,988
4776
24,764
100.0
-
19,827
5117
24,944
100.0
+397

* Denotes an agency not listed in the top 20 agencies in 2011–12.

^ Shows the total for the top 20 agencies in 2011–12 (ie includes figures for four agencies not in the top 20 agencies in 2012–13).

# From 26 March 2013, the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education assumed responsibility for functions associated with Climate Change and its name was changed to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

Table 9.3 shows how FOI requests were determined in 2011–12 and 2012–13 broken into requests for personal and other (non-personal) information.

Table 9.3 FOI requests determined
Decision
2011–12
%
2012–13
%
Personal
Other
Total
Personal
Other
Total
Granted
in full
12,157
995
13,152
59.1
11,366
1093
12,459
57.3
Granted
in part
4942
1569
6511
29.3
5272
1723
6995
32.1
Refused
1631
943
2574
11.6
1244
1066
2310
10.6
Total
18,730
3507
22,237
100.0
17,882
3882
21,764
100.0

In each of the last five reporting years there has been a decrease in the percentage of requests granted in full: 71.0% were granted in 2008–09, 63.8% in 2009–10, 60.9% in 2010–11, 59.1% in 2011–12 and 57.3% in 2012–13. This decrease applies to requests for both personal and for other information.

89.4% of requests were granted in full or in part in 2012–13, more than in the previous year. This is in contrast with each of the previous four reporting years when there was a decrease in the proportion of requests granted in full or in part: 93.9% were granted in full or in part in 2008–09, 92.5% in 2009–10, 90.6% in 2010–11, and 88.4% in 2011–12.

The figures for FOI requests that were refused include cases in which the documents sought do not exist or cannot be found, as well as cases in which exemptions have been applied.

Table 9.4 lists the top 20 agencies by the number of FOI decisions they have made.

Table 9.4 shows significant differences in the outcome of FOI requests between those agencies processing the largest number of requests in 2012–13. Three of the agencies in the top 20 refused 30% or more of the FOI requests they received during 2012–13: the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) refused 44.2%, DoHA 38.0% and the AFP 30.0%. ASIC's refusal rate has decreased from 2011–12, when it refused 50.9% of all requests. Seven of the top 20 agencies refused fewer than 10% of the FOI requests they received: the Trade Marks Office refused 0.3%; ComSuper 1.0%, MRT 1.3%, DVA 2.0%, the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) 4.2%, APVMA 7.2% and DIAC 7.5%.

Table 9.4 Top 20 agencies by numbers of FOI requests determined
Agency
Granted in full
%
Granted in part
%
Refused
%
Total
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
5138
56.0
3355
36.6
685
7.5
9178
Department of Veterans' Affairs
3638
97.2
31
0.8
75
2.0
3744
Department of Human Services
1741
56.4
1015
32.9
331
10.7
3087
Australian Taxation Office
128
16.7
523
68.4
114
14.9
765
Australian Federal Police
36
8.4
261
61.6
127
30.0
424
Department of Defence
63
21.0
194
64.7
43
14.3
300
Trade Marks Office
165
56.1
128
43.5
1
0.3
294
Attorney-General's Department
38
13.4
196
69.3
49
17.3
283
Refugee Review Tribunal
192
73.8
57
21.9
11
4.2
260
Migration Review Tribunal
150
65.5
76
33.2
3
1.3
229
ComSuper
177
92.7
12
6.3
2
1.0
191
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
110
58.8
49
26.2
28
15.0
187
Department of Health and Ageing
39
21.8
72
40.2
68
38.0
179
Australian Postal Corporation
122
71.3
10
5.8
39
22.8
171
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
35
23.8
47
32.0
65
44.2
147
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
99
79.2
17
13.6
9
7.2
125
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
27
24.8
61
56.0
21
19.3
109
Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
32
32.0
41
41.0
27
27.0
100
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
18
18.9
56
58.9
21
22.1
95
Comcare
17
19.8
44
51.2
25
29.1
86
Top 20
11,965
60.0
6245
31.3
1744
8.7
19,954
Remaining Agencies
494
27.3
750
41.4
566
31.3
1810
Total
12,459
33.4
6995
41.9
2310
24.7
21,764

Use of exemptions and practical refusal

Table 9.5 shows how Australian Government agencies and ministers claimed exemptions under the FOI Act when processing FOI requests in 2012–13. More than one exemption might be applied in processing an FOI request.

Table 9.5 Use of exemptions in FOI decisions
FOI Act reference
Exemption
Personal
Other
Total
%
s 33
Documents affecting national security, defence or international relations
133
124
257
1.2
s 34
Cabinet documents
1
75
76
0.3
s 37
Documents affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety
1108
174
1282
5.9
s 38
Documents to which secrecy provisions of enactments apply
339
360
699
3.2
s 42
Documents subject to legal professional privilege
169
135
304
1.4
s 45
Documents containing material obtained in confidence
110
138
248
1.1
s 46
Documents disclosure of which would be contempt of Parliament or contempt of court
11
13
24
0.1
s 47
Documents disclosing trade secrets or commercially valuable information
17
124
141
0.6
s 47A
Electoral rolls and related documents
2
0
2
0.0
s 47B
Commonwealth-State relations
132
51
183
0.8
s 47C
Deliberative processes
125
238
363
1.7
s 47D
Financial or property interests of the Commonwealth
5
11
16
0.1
s 47E
Certain operations of agencies
490
406
896
4.1
s 47F
Personal privacy
3653
836
4489
20.6
s 47G
Business
208
305
513
2.4
s 47H
Research
1
1
2
0.0
s 47J
The economy
0
3
3
0.0

In 9726 requests (44.7%), no exemption was claimed by the agency or minister. This is a smaller proportion of requests than in 2011–12 (57.8%). This increase in the proportion of cases in which an exemption has been claimed may reflect the increase in the proportion of non-personal requests in 2012–13.

The personal privacy exemption in s 47F of the FOI Act remains the most-claimed exemption, being claimed in 20.6% of FOI requests. The next most-claimed exemptions were s 37 (documents affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety — 5.9%), s 47E (certain operations of agencies — 4.1%) and s 38 (documents to which secrecy provisions of enactments apply — 3.2%).

Section 24AB of the FOI Act sets out a 'request consultation process' which must be undertaken if a 'practical refusal reason' exists (s 24AA). A practical refusal reason exists if the work involved in processing the FOI request would substantially and unreasonably divert the agency's resources from its other operations, or the FOI request does not adequately identify the documents sought.

The request consultation process involves the agency sending a written notice to the FOI applicant advising them that it intends to refuse the request and providing details of how the FOI applicant can consult with the agency. The FOI Act imposes an obligation on the agency to take reasonable steps to help the FOI applicant to revise their request so that the practical refusal reason no longer exists.

Table 9.6 provides information about how Australian Government agencies and ministers engaged in request consultation processes under s 24AB of the FOI Act in 2012–13 and the outcome of those processes.

Table 9.6 Use of practical refusal
Notified in writing of intention to refuse request
Request was subsequently refused or withdrawn
Request was subsequently processed
Personal
Other
Total
Personal
Other
Total
%
Personal
Other
Total
%
316
466
782
128
206
334
42.7
188
260
448
57.3

Agencies sent almost two-and-a-half times as many notices of an intention to refuse a request in 2012–13 than in 2011–12. However, there was a significant decrease in the proportion of requests subsequently refused or withdrawn: 42.7% in 2012–13; 81.5% in 2011–12. This may indicate that the request consultation process is working better: that agencies are giving applicants sufficient information to refine the scope of their requests or to better identify the documents sought, so that their requests can be processed.

In its Annual Report 2011–12, the OAIC noted that only 3.3% of personal information requests were subsequently processed following the request consultation process. An explanation was not apparent, but it may have been that applicants seeking their own records were less inclined to refine their requests. In 2012–13, 59.5% of personal requests were processed following the request consultation process. This is more in line with the pattern for non-personal information requests.

Time taken to respond to FOI requests

As a starting point, once an FOI request has been received, an agency or minister has 30 days within which to make a decision under the FOI Act. The FOI Act allows for the extension of that statutory timeframe in certain circumstances. If a decision is not made on a request within the statutory timeframe (as extended, if applicable) then s 15AC of the FOI Act provides that a decision refusing access is deemed to have been made. Nonetheless, agencies can — and are encouraged to — continue to process a request that has been deemed to have been refused. If an applicant seeks Information Commissioner review (IC review) of a deemed decision, s 55G provides that the agency can only make a substituted decision that is more favourable to the applicant while that IC review is under way.

An agency may extend the period of time to make a decision by agreement with the applicant (s 15AA), or to undertake consultation with a third party (ss 15(6)–(8)). An agency can also apply to the Information Commissioner for more time to process a request when the request is complex or voluminous (s 15AB), or when access has been deemed to be refused (s 15AC or s 51DA) or affirmed on internal review (s 54D). These extension provisions acknowledge that there are circumstances when it is appropriate for an agency to take more than 30 days to process a request.

When an agency has obtained an extension of time to deal with an FOI request, and resolves the request within the extended time period, the request is recorded as having been determined within the statutory time period.

Table 9.7 shows the response times for all agencies and ministers for 2011–12 and 2012–13. In 2012–13, 85.6% of all FOI requests determined were processed within the applicable statutory time period: 86.3% of all personal information requests and 81.9% of non-personal requests. This is a decrease in response time from 2011–12 (88.5%) but an improvement on the response time in 2010–11 (84.2%).

Table 9.7 Response times — FOI requests
Response time
2011–12
%
2012–13
%
Personal
Other
Total
Personal
Other
Total
Within applicable statutory time period
17,015
2660
19,675
88.5
15,441
3181
18,622
85.6
Up to 30 days over applicable statutory time period
964
394
1358
6.1
1807
300
2107
9.7
31–60 days over applicable statutory time period
388
192
580
2.6
293
164
457
2.1
61–90 days over applicable statutory time period
191
156
327
1.5
139
91
230
1.1
More than 90 days over applicable statutory time period
192
105
297
1.3
202
146
348
1.6
Total
18,730
3507
22,237
100.0
17,882
3882
21,764
100.0

Table 9.8 shows those agencies and ministers that, in 2012–13, had one or more FOI requests that took more than 90 days to finalise beyond the applicable statutory time period.

Eight agencies took longer than 90 days after the applicable statutory period had expired to process more than 5% of their FOI requests. While DIAC had the greatest number of applications that took more than 90 days to process, such applications comprised only 2.3% of the total number of FOI requests it determined during 2012–13. The AFP received 23.4% more FOI requests in 2012–13 and determined 39.9% more requests than in 2011–12. However, it experienced a significant increase in the number of requests taking more than 90 days to process (almost two-and-a-half times as many).

Table 9.8 Response times greater than 90 days after the expiry of the applicable statutory period 2012–13
Agency
Total requests determined
Requests determined more than 90 days after statutory period
% of total
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
9178
214
2.3
Australian Federal Police
424
72
17.0
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
95
16
16.8
Department of Health and Ageing
179
10
5.6
Australian Taxation Office
765
10
1.3
Department of Human Services
3087
10
0.3
Attorney-General's Department
283
4
1.4
Department of Veterans' Affairs
3744
4
0.1
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
78
2
2.6
National Mental Health Commission
2
1
50.0
Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
6
1
16.7
Screen Australia
7
1
14.3
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
9
1
11.1
Australian Public Service Commission
18
1
5.6
Comcare
86
1
1.2

 Applications for amendment of personal records

Section 48 of the FOI Act confers a right on a person to apply to an agency or to a minister to amend a document, to which lawful access has been granted, where the document contains personal information about the applicant:

  • that is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading, and
  • that has been used, is being used, or is available for use by the agency or Minister for an administrative purpose.

In 2012–13, 2854 amendment applications were received by agencies (none were received by ministers). There has been a decrease in the number of amendment applications received in each of the last four reporting periods: 18.9% in 2012–13, 5.0% in 2011–12, 20.0% in 2010–11, and 26.4% in 2009–10. Only 12 agencies received applications for amendment in 2012–13. One agency, DIAC, received 2799 amendment applications (98.1% of the total).

2893 amendment applications were determined in 2012–13. This is 671 fewer than in 2011–12, a decrease of 9.2%. Table 9.9 compares the decision making for amendment applications for the last three reporting periods. In 2012–13, a decision to amend or annotate a person's personal record was made in response to 72.9% of applications, almost the same proportion as in 2011–12 (73.0%), but slightly smaller than in 2010–11 (77.4%).

Table 9.9 Determination of amendment applications
Decision
2010–11
%
2011–12
%
2012–13
%
Requests granted: amend record
2367
64.1
1884
52.9
1873
64.7
Requests granted: annotate record
487
13.2
717
20.1
236
8.2
Requests granted: amend and annotate record
2
0.1
2
0.0
1
0.0
Requests refused
836
22.6
961
27.0
783
27.1
Total decided
3692
100.0
3564
100.0
2893
100.0

Time taken to respond to amendment applications

An agency is required to notify an applicant of a decision on their application to amend personal records as soon as practicable, but in any case not later than 30 days after the date the request is received, or a longer period as extended under the FOI Act.

In 2012–13, 96.7% of amendment applications were decided within the statutory time period. This is an improvement on 2011–12 (93.2%). All but two of the 95 applications not processed within the statutory time period were applications filed with DIAC.

 Charges

Under the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations 1982 (the Charges Regulations), FOI charges apply only to an initial access decision under Part III of the FOI Act. There is no charge for making an application:

  • for access to a document under s 15
  • for amendment or annotation of a personal record under s 48
  • for internal review of a decision under s 54 or s 54A
  • for IC review of a decision under s 54L or s 54M.

A fee is payable for an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for review of a decision under Part VIIA.

Section 29 of the FOI Act provides for an agency or Minister to impose charges in respect of FOI requests, and the process by which they are assessed, notified and adjusted. The applicant must be given notice in writing when an agency or minister decides under the Charges Regulations that the applicant is liable to pay a charge. The notice must specify that the applicant is liable to pay a charge, the preliminary assessment of the charge to be paid, the basis of calculation and the applicant's right to contend that the charge has been wrongly assessed or should be reduced or waived.

Charges that agencies can impose for processing FOI requests include charges for search and retrieval time, decision making, retrieving and collating electronic information, preparing transcripts and photocopying. An agency or minister has a discretion to impose or not impose a charge, or impose a charge that is lower than the applicable charge under reg 3 of the Charges Regulations.

The applicant must, within 30 days, or such further period allowed by the agency, agree to pay the charge, dispute the charge, seek a waiver or reduction, or withdraw the FOI request. When an applicant asks that the charge be reduced or not imposed, the agency must consider the applicant's reasons and may decide to reduce the charge or to not impose it.

Table 9.10 shows the amounts collected by the 20 agencies that collected the most in charges under the FOI Act in 2012–13. These top 20 agencies collected 85.6% of all charges collected by Australian Government agencies and ministers under the FOI Act during that period.

Table 9.10 Top 20 agencies by charges collected
Agency
Requests received
Requests where charges notified
Total charges notified
Total charges collected
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
150
110
$32,992
$27,871
Department of Health and Ageing
276
105
$113,682
$27,314
Department of Defence
414
107
$28,468
$16,987
Department of Infrastructure and Transport
63
23
$18,387
$16,936
Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport
31
2
$12,920
$15,752
Trade Marks Office
332
122
$21,476
$12,570
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities
120
64
$47,109
$11,781
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
14
6
$13,366
$10,862
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
73
27
$18,612
$9816
Department of Finance and Deregulation
115
39
$14,047
$8404
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
329
70
$19,743
$6518
Grains Research and Development Corporation
2
1
$6395
$6395
Australian Taxation Office
877
59
$12,320
$5638
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
87
35
$17,448
$4329
Department of Veterans' Affairs
4245
67
$11,603
$4284
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
251
31
$13,009
$4120
Department of the Treasury
138
58
$23,070
$4102
Australian Skills Quality Authority
37
15
$11,645
$3877
Bureau of Meteorology
21
8
$3400
$2742
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
9399
34
$4859
$2271
Top 20
16,974
983
$444,551
$202,569
Remaining agencies
7970
313
$259,204
$34,185
Total
24,944
1296
$703,755
$236,754

In 2012–13, agencies notified a total of $703,755 in charges, with respect to 1296 requests, but collected only $236,754 (33.6%) of those charges. This difference is due to agencies exercising their discretion under s 29 of the FOI Act not to impose the whole charge, or applicants deciding to withdraw an application and not pay the notified charge.

Agencies notified and collected significantly less in charges in 2012–13 than in the previous year. In 2011–12, agencies notified a total of $1,537,871 in charges, with respect to 1423 requests, and collected $421,298. The percentage reduction in the notification and collection amounts for 2012-13 were, respectively, 45.8% and 56.2%

Charges collected, as a proportion of the total cost of administering the FOI Act, continue to decrease. In 2012–13, charges collected represented 0.5% of the total cost of administering the Act. In 2011–12, 1.0%; in 2010–11,2 1.7%; and in 2009–10, 1.9%. (See below for details of the cost of administering the FOI Act.)

 Review of FOI decisions

Under the FOI Act, an applicant who is dissatisfied with the decision of a minister or an agency on their initial FOI request has several avenues for review or redress. The applicant can first seek internal review, then external merits review by the Information Commissioner (IC review), then review by the AAT, then appeal, on a question of law, to the Federal Court or the High Court. In addition, an applicant may make a complaint at any time to the Information Commissioner about an agency's actions under the FOI Act.

Third parties that have been consulted in the FOI process also have review rights if an agency decides to release documents contrary to their submissions. Consultation requirements apply for state governments (ss 26A and 26AA), the Australian Government in relation to FOI requests made to a Norfolk Island authority (s 26AA), commercial organisations (s 27) and private individuals (s 27A).

Section 23 of the FOI Act provides that decisions on requests made to an agency can be made by the responsible minister or the principal officer of that agency, or by authorised officers of the agency. There is no express power in the FOI Act for a minister to authorise another person to make a decision on an FOI request received by the minister. The Information Commissioner's view is that it is nevertheless open to a minister to authorise members of the minister's staff or of an agency to make such decisions.

Internal review

A person who is dissatisfied with an agency's access refusal or access grant decision can apply either for internal review or IC review of that decision. Internal review is not available if the initial decision maker is the responsible minister or the principal officer of the agency. Although there is no requirement to do so, the Information Commissioner recommends that a person apply for internal review (if available) before applying for IC review.

Internal review is a merits review process. The internal review officer can decide all issues raised by an applicant's FOI request, and exercise all the powers available to the original decision maker. The internal review officer may rely on work undertaken by the original decision maker, or may cause the same work to be undertaken again. All the material available to the original decision maker should be available to the internal review officer. The internal review officer may consider additional material and submissions not considered by the original decision maker.

In 2012–13, 511 applications were made for internal review of FOI decisions: 3.0% more than in 2011–12, which was 18.4% more than in 2010–11. Of the 511 applications for internal review, 249 (48.7%) were for review of decisions on requests for personal information and 262 (51.3%) were for review of decisions on other (non-personal) requests.

Agencies made 485 decisions on internal review in 2012–13: 14.7% more than were made in 2011–12. Of these, 233 (48.0%) affirmed the original decision, 57 (11.8%) set aside the original decision and granted access in full, 160 (33.0%) granted access in part, six (1.2%) granted access in another form, 12 (2.5%) resulted in lesser access and nine applications (1.9%) were withdrawn without concession by the agency. Agencies reduced the charges levied as a result of internal review in eight cases (1.6%).

There were 76 applications for internal review of decisions on amendment applications, 11 (12.6%) fewer than in 2011–12. Agencies made 87 of these internal review decisions: in 60 cases (69.0%) the original decision was affirmed; in 27 cases, it was set aside.

Information Commissioner review

Table 9.11 provides a breakdown by agency and minister of IC review applications received in 2012–13, where the agency or minister was the subject of more than one IC review. In total, there were 507 applications for IC review (11.2% more than in 2011–12).

Table 9.11 Information Commissioner review where the agency/minister was the subject of more than one IC review
Agency/minister
Access refusal decisions
Access grant decisions
Total
Department of Human Services
81
0
81
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
75
1
76
Australian Taxation Office
34
1
35
Australian Federal Police
23
0
23
Department of Veterans' Affairs
18
0
18
Department of Defence
16
1
17
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
15
1
16
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
15
0
15
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
15
0
15
Department of Health and Ageing
14
0
14
Attorney-General's Department
13
0
13
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
11
1
12
Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
11
0
11
Department of Finance and Deregulation
9
2
11
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
7
3
10
Civil Aviation Safety Authority
8
0
8
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
1
7
8
Department of the Treasury
7
0
7
Comcare Australia
7
0
7
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
6
1
7
Commonwealth Ombudsman
6
0
6
Department of Infrastructure and Transport
4
0
4
Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
4
0
4
NBN Co Ltd
4
0
4
Fair Work Ombudsman
0
4
4
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
4
0
4
Australian Postal Corporation
3
0
3
Australian Communications and Media Authority
3
0
3
Office of the Prime Minister
3
0
3
National Health and Medical Research Council
3
0
3
IP Australia (including Trade Marks Office)
2
1
3
Australian Crime Commission
2
0
2
Airservices Australia
2
0
2
Australian Accounting Standards Board
2
0
2
Australian National Maritime Museum
2
0
2
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
2
0
2
The Australian National University
2
0
2
Australian Human Rights Commission
2
0
2
Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
2
0
2
Australian Agency for International Development
2
0
2
Migration Review Tribunal — Refugee Review Tribunal
2
0
2
Out of Jurisdiction
2
0
2
Subtotal
444
23
467
Remaining agencies/ministers
39
1
40
Total
483
24
507

Generally speaking, the agencies about which the most IC review applications were made were those that received the largest number of FOI requests in 2012–13. Twenty or more IC review applications were made about each of four agencies: DHS, DIAC, the ATO and the AFP. Each of those agencies is in the top 10 agencies in terms of FOI requests received.

There are only two agencies in the top 20 agencies in terms of FOI requests received about which no IC review applications were received in 2012–13: ComSuper and APVMA.

Agencies that did not receive large numbers of applications, but about which the OAIC received a comparatively large number of IC review applications in 2012–13, include the Australian Accounting Standards Board (2 requests, 2 IC reviews), the Australian National Maritime Museum (2 requests, 2 IC reviews), the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (50 requests, 11 IC reviews), Australian Communications and Media Authority (14 requests, 3 IC reviews), the Office of the Prime Minister (16 requests, 3 IC reviews), the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (12 requests, 2 IC reviews), the National Health and Medical Research Council (18 requests, 3 IC reviews), PM&C (121 requests, 15 IC reviews), the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (73 requests, 8 IC reviews) and NBN Co (37 requests, 4 IC reviews).

Information about the Information Commissioner's handling of IC reviews is given in Chapter 8.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal review

An application can be made to the AAT for review of the following FOI decisions:

  • a decision of the Information Commissioner on an IC review
  • an IC reviewable decision (that is, an original decision or an internal review decision), but only if the Information Commissioner decides, under s 54W(b), that the interests of the administration of the FOI Act make it desirable that the IC reviewable decision be considered by the AAT.

An application for the review of one of these decisions may be made by a person whose interests are affected by the decision.3 As with IC review, the AAT conducts a merits review process.

The AAT's decisions are appealable to the Federal Court of Australia, but only on a question of law. The fee for an application to the AAT increases on each biennial anniversary of 1 July 1996, based on a calculation related to the Consumer Price Index. The fee during the reporting period was $816.

In 2012–13, 25 of the 44 reviews finalised by the AAT involved review of FOI requests made prior to 1 November 2010, for which IC review was not available. Of the remaining 19 matters finalised by the AAT, six were applications for review of decisions made by the Information Commissioner or the FOI Commissioner and 13 were matters that the Information Commissioner had declined to review under s 54W(b).

Chart 9.1 shows the number of applications for review of FOI decisions received by the AAT since 1983–84.

Chart 9.1 shows that 42 FOI decisions were appealed to the AAT in 2012–13. This number has more than doubled since 2011–12, when 20 decisions were appealed to the AAT. The low number of appeals in 2011–12 was due to that year being a 'transition year', during which all external merits review of decisions made on FOI requests lay first with the Information Commissioner. Before November 2010, external merits review lay with the AAT alone.

Chart 9.1 Applications for review of FOI decisions received by the AAT since 1983–84

Chart 9.1 sets out the number of applications by the AAT for review of an FOI decision since 1983–84

Chart 9.1 Text version

Table 9.12 provides a breakdown by agency of applications to the AAT in FOI matters in 2012–13. This data has been provided by the AAT.

Table 9.12 AAT review by agency
Agency
Applications
% of total applications
Australian Taxation Office
24
57.1
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
4
9.5
Department of Infrastructure and Transport
4
9.5
Australian Federal Police
3
7.1
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
2
4.8
Department of Human Services
2
4.8
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority
1
2.4
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
1
2.4
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
1
2.4
Total
42
100.0

Table 9.13 shows the outcome of the 44 FOI appeals finalised by the AAT in 2012–13. This data has been provided by the AAT.

Table 9.13 Outcomes of FOI appeals finalised by the AAT in 2012–13
By consent/ withdrawn
Number
By decision
Number
Other
Number
Affirmed
0
Affirmed
4
Dismissed by AAT
0
Set aside
3
Set Aside
4
No application fee paid
2
Varied
0
Varied
4
Extension of time refused
0
Dismissed
1
       
Withdrawn
26
       

Of the 44 FOI appeals finalised by the AAT, 12 (27.3%) resulted in a decision. The AAT affirmed the agency's decision in four (33.3%) of those reviews, compared with 47.8% in 2011–12.

Two of the FOI appeals decided by the AAT in 2012–13 were appeals from IC review decisions. On 21 December 2012, in Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd [2012] AATA 914, the AAT affirmed the FOI Commissioner's decision in Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd and Australian Broadcasting Corporation [2012] AICmr 7. On the same day, in Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Tennant [2012] AATA 914, the AAT set aside part of the FOI Commissioner's decision in 'F' and Australian Broadcasting Corporation [2012] AICmr 8, substituting its own decision (on an issue that was not raised in the IC review) and affirmed the balance of the IC review decision.

Federal Court of Australia appeals

On 19 December 2012, in Kline v Official Secretary to the Governor-General [2012] FCAFC 184, the Full Court of the Federal Court dismissed an appeal from the AAT's decision in Kline and Official Secretary to the Governor-General [2012] AATA 247, which had affirmed the FOI Commissioner's decision in 'B' and Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General [2011] AICmr 6.

 Complaints about agency FOI actions

Complaints to the Information Commissioner

Information about the Information Commissioner's handling of FOI complaints is given in Chapter 8.

Complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman

Complaints about agencies' handling of FOI requests are primarily dealt with by the OAIC. The Commonwealth Ombudsman may investigate FOI complaints when it would be more appropriate or effective: for example, when the FOI complaint is one part of a wider grievance about an agency's actions.

In 2012–13, the Commonwealth Ombudsman received 55 complaints about FOI matters, 22.2% more than the 45 it received in the previous year. The Commonwealth Ombudsman transferred nine complaints to the OAIC under s 6C of the Ombudsman Act 1976 during 2012–13. The Ombudsman did not investigate any FOI complaints in 2012–13.

 Impact of FOI on agency resources

To assess the impact on agency resources of their compliance with the FOI Act, agencies are required to estimate the hours that staff spent on FOI matters and the non-labour costs directly attributable to FOI, such as training and legal costs. Agencies submit these estimates annually. Experience shows that agencies rarely keep exact records of hours spent by officers on FOI matters and other non-labour costs incurred. Agency estimates may also include FOI processing work undertaken on behalf of a minister's office.

For the second year, agencies have also reported on their costs of compliance with the IPS. To facilitate comparison with the information in previous annual reports, those IPS costs are not included in this analysis of the cost of agency compliance with the FOI Act, but are discussed separately below.

The total reported cost attributable to the FOI Act in 2012–13 was $45.231 million, an increase of 8.4% on the previous year's total of $41.719 million. This increase occurred despite an increase of only 0.7% in the number of FOI requests received, and a decrease of 18.9% in the number of amendment applications received. Total yearly FOI costs since the commencement of the FOI Act are shown in Table 9.14.4

Table 9.14 Comparative total yearly cost of FOI
Year
Total cost
Year
Total cost
Year
Total cost
1982–83*
$7,502,355
1993–94
$13,977,360
2004–05
$22,860,022
1983–84
$15,106,511
1994–95
$11,955,482
2005–06
$24,903,771
1984–85
$16,496,961
1995–96
$14,564,562
2006–07
$24,936,178
1985–86
$15,711,889
1996–97
$15,972,950
2007–08
$29,474,653
1986–87
$13,336,864
1997–98
$12,191,478
2008–09
$30,358,484
1987–88
$11,506,931
1998–99
$13,066,029
2009–10
$27,484,129
1988–89
$10,494,376
1999–00
$14,035,394
2010–11
$36,318,030
1989–90
$10,373,321
2000–01
$14,415,406
2011–12
$41,718,803
1990–91
$9,921,772
2001–02
$17,387,088
2012-13
$45,231,147
1991–92
$12,723,097
2002–03
$18,398,181
   
1992–93
$12,702,329
2003–04
$20,189,136
   

* Seven months only.

Table 9.15 sets out the average cost per FOI request determined (granted in full, in part or refused) from 2000–01 to 2012–13. The average cost per request determined in 2012–13 was $2078, 10.8% more than in the previous year.

Table 9.15 Average cost per request
Year
Requests determined
Total cost
Average cost per request determined
2002–03
38,370
$18,398,181
$479
2003–04
39,774
$20,189,136
$508
2004–05
36,827
$22,860,022
$621
2005–06
38,987
$24,903,771
$639
2006–07
34,158
$24,936,178
$730
2007–08
31,367
$29,474,653
$940
2008–09
25,139
$30,358,484
$1208
2009–10
19,583
$27,484,129
$1403
2010–11
20,187
$36,318,030
$1799
2011–12
22,237
$41,718,803
$1876
2012–13
21,764
$45,231,147
$2078

Chart 9.2 shows the relationship between FOI costs and the number of FOI requests received for each year since 1982–83. Between 1 December 1982 (the date the FOI Act commenced) and 30 June 2013, Australian Government agencies and ministers have received 956,347 FOI requests.

Chart 9.2 FOI costs in relation to number of requests received

This chart shows the relationship between FOI costs and the number of FOI requests received for each year since 1982–83. The chart also shows FOI costs in relation to numbers of FOI requests. These costs are explained in table 9.14.

Chart 9.2 Text version

Staff costs

All agencies are required to supply information about staff resources allocated to FOI. This information includes:

  • the number of staff who spent 75% or more of their time on FOI work
  • the number of staff who spent less than 75% of their time on such work.

This covers all facets of agencies' processing FOI requests, including:

  • search and retrieval
  • consultation with third parties
  • decision making
  • internal review
  • FOI processing work for a minister's office.

Totals of FOI staffing across all Australian Government agencies for 2010–11, 2011–12 and 2012–13 are shown in Table 9.16.

Table 9.16 Total FOI staffing for 2010–11, 2011–12 and 2012–13
Staffing
2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
Staff numbers: 75–100% time spent on FOI matters
213*
249
284
Staff numbers: less than 75% time spent on FOI matters
2431*
3722
3546
Total staff hours
511,986
576,824
638,466
Total staff years
256.0
288.4
319.2

* Staff numbers for 2010–11 are a weighted average of numbers for the period before the commencement of the FOI reforms (1 July 2010 to 31 October 2010) and for the period afterwards (1 November 2010 to 30 June 2011).

Agencies provided estimates of the number of staff hours spent on FOI to enable calculation of salary costs (and 60% related costs) directly attributable to FOI. A summary of staff costs is provided in Table 9.17, based on information provided by agencies and the following median base annual salaries:5

  • officers whose duties included FOI work $ 72,4876
  • other officers involved in processing requests
    • Senior Executive Service (SES) officers (or equivalent) $172,0007
    • APS Level 6 and Executive Levels (EL) 1–2 $104,8258
    • Australian Public Service (APS) Levels 1–5 $ 59,6779
  • Minister's office
    • Minister and advisers $130,46010
    • Minister's support staff $ 59,67711
Table 9.17 Estimated staff costs of FOI for 2012–13
Type of staff
Staff years
Salary costs
Related costs (60%)
Total staff costs
Officers whose duties included FOI work
250.0
$18,123,163
$10,873,898
$28,997,062
Other officers involved in processing requests:
       
SES
6.8
$1,165,472
$699,283
$1,864,755
APS Level 6 and Executive Levels 1–2
39.3
$4,115,167
$2,469,100
$6,584,268
APS Levels 1–5
22.6
$1,349,566
$809,739
$2,159,305
Ministerial staff:
       
Minister and advisers
0.5
$65,100
$39,060
$104,159
Minister's support staff
0.1
$3969
$2381
$6350
Total
319.2
$24,822,437
$14,893,462
$39,715,898

Total estimated staff costs in 2012–13 were $39.716 million, 17.3% more than in the previous year.

Non-labour costs

Non-labour costs directly attributable to FOI are summarised in Table 9.18. The total in 2012–13 was $5.515 million, 29.9% less than in the previous year.

The largest decreases were in legal costs, which may indicate that agencies are increasingly undertaking legal work in-house. Training costs decreased by 23.8% in 2012–13. This was presumably due to a reduction in the need to train staff on the effect of the 2010 reforms.

Table 9.18 Identified non-labour costs of FOI
Costs
2010–11
2011–12
% change
2012–13
% change
General legal advice costs
n/a
$5,323,951
n/a
$3,116,080
-41.5%
Litigation costs
n/a
$1,229,393
n/a
$727,879
-40.8%
Total general legal costs
$4,991,656
$6,553,344
31.3%
$3,843,959
-41.3%
General administrative costs
$700,565
$600,310
-14.3%
$1,100,960
83.4%
Training
$388,207
$398,373
2.6%
$303,437
-23.8%
Other
$282,897
$312,270
10.4%
$266,893
-14.5%
Total
$6,363,324
$7,864,297
23.6%
$5,515,249
-29.9%

Average cost per FOI request

The average staff-days per request ranged across agencies from 0.1 to 57.7 days in 2012–13. The overall average was 3.4 days. The average was 3.1 days in 2011–12 and 2.9 in 2010–11. The average cost per request ranged across agencies from $29 to $27,933. The overall average was $1814, an increase of 7.7% on the previous year's average of $1685.

Table 9.19 lists the agencies/ministers that recorded an average cost of less than $200 per request received in 2012–13.

Table 9.19 Agencies/ministers with average cost per request less than $200
Agency
Requests
received
Average cost per request
Federal Circuit Court of Australia
2
$29
Aboriginal Hostels Limited
2
$58
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
5
$63
Australian Accounting Standards Board
2
$71
Minister for Foreign Affairs
2
$76
Migration Review Tribunal
554
$82
National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme
2
$98
Refugee Review Tribunal
364
$118
Remuneration Tribunal
1
$132
Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
1
$163
Screen Australia
7
$168
Veterans' Review Board
5
$179
Australian War Memorial
2
$182
Seafarers Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority
2
$188

Table 9.20 lists the agencies that recorded an average cost of more than $10,000 per request received in 2012–13.

Table 9.20 Agencies with average cost per request greater than $10,000
Agency
Requests received
Average cost per request
Geoscience Australia
1
$27,833
Grains Research and Development Corporation
2
$22,153
National Offshore Petroleum Safety & Environmental Management Authority
2
$21,930
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
14
$16,604
Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism
27
$16,022
Australian Communications and Media Authority
14
$14,625
Indigenous Land Corporation
2
$13,638
Tax Practitioners Board
15
$13,552
Australian Film, Television and Radio School
1
$13,370
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
44
$13,361
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority
6
$12,319
Private Health Insurance Ombudsman
1
$10,836
Food Standards Australia New Zealand
10
$10,549
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
121
$10,141

The range of averages in Table 9.20 is much less than in 2011–12 when the average cost per request over $10,000 ranged from $14,573 to $94,212. This may indicate that agencies are less often seeking external legal advice with respect to requests, reflecting an increasing understanding of, and confidence with, the FOI Act.

 Impact of Information Publication Scheme on agency resources

The previous reporting period was the first for which agencies were required to provide information about the costs of meeting their obligations under the IPS, which commenced on 1 May 2011. Further information about the IPS is given in Chapter 8.

The total reported cost attributable to compliance with the IPS in 2012–13 was $3.108 million, 22.2% less than in 2011–12 ($3.798 million). A decrease was to be expected as most agencies were establishing their IPS compliance mechanisms during last year. Some agencies did not report any cost of their IPS compliance separately from their costs of complying with the FOI Act. This may be because those agencies were unable to disaggregate those costs.

Staff costs

Table 9.21 shows the total reported IPS staffing across Australian Government agencies in 2011–12 and 2012–13.

Table 9.21 Total IPS staffing
Staffing
2011–12
2012–13
% change
Staff numbers: 75–100% time on IPS matters
21
20
-4.8%
Staff numbers: less than 75% time on IPS matters
691
529
-23.4%
Total staff hours
54,101
46,959
-13.2%
Total staff years
27.1
23.5
-13.2%

Table 9.22 details the estimated staff costs of IPS for 2012–13.

Table 9.22 Estimated staff costs of IPS for 2012–13
Type of staff
Staff years
Salary costs
Related costs (60%)
Total staff costs
Officers whose duties included IPS work
13.8
$1,001,625
$600,975
$1,602,600
Other officers involved in IPS work:
SES
0.5
$84,882
$50,929
$135,811
APS Level 6 and Executive Levels 1–2
5.2
$552,113
$331,268
$883,381
APS Levels 1–5
4
$232,800
$139,680
$372,480
Total
23.5
$1,871,420
$1,122,852
$2,994,272

Non-labour costs

Table 9.23 details the identified non-labour costs of the IPS in 2011–12 and 2012–13.

Table 9.23 Identified non-labour costs of IPS
Item
2011–12
2012–13
% change
General administrative costs
$17,808
$24,383
36.9%
General legal advice costs
$24,603
$31,502
28.0%
Training
$6068
$500
-91.8%
Other
$170,516
$57,300
-66.4%
Total
$218,995
$113,685
-48.1%

There has been a significant reduction in 'other' non-labour costs associated with the IPS in 2012–13. As noted above, a decrease was to be expected as most agencies were establishing their IPS compliance mechanisms during 2011–12.

 OAIC expenditure on FOI functions

The OAIC has three key functions: information policy, privacy and FOI functions. Although some staff of the OAIC work in only one of these three areas, many work across two or all three functions. It is difficult to precisely identify the proportion of the OAIC's activities, and its resources, that are directed towards each function.

The OAIC estimates that 35% of its resources are directed towards exercising its FOI functions. The OAIC's total expenditure for the reporting period was $14.363 million (see Appendix 1). Accordingly, the OAIC estimates that it spent approximately $5.027 million on the exercise of its FOI functions in 2012–13. This is 9.2% more than the approximately $4.604 million it spent in 2011–12.

The OAIC spent $47,109 on processing FOI requests made to the OAIC in 2012–13, almost four times the $11,807 it spent in 2011–12.


1 Australian Government ministers and agencies, and the Norfolk Island administration, are required by s 93 of the FOI Act and reg 5 of the Freedom of Information (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 1982 to submit statistical returns to the OAIC every quarter.

2 In 2010–11 and earlier, fees were collected in addition to charges; both are included in these figures. From 1 November 2010, the FOI Act and the Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Regulations (now called the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations 1982) were amended to abolish fees and some charges.

3 Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, s 27.

4 Before 2006–07, salary costs were calculated using the average of the salary levels of the three agencies recording the highest total FOI costs. Since 2006–07, salary costs have been calculated using median APS base salary figures and have taken account of SES salary costs. This means the data before 2006–07 is not strictly comparable with the data collected since 2006–07.

5 As salary levels differ between agencies, median salary levels were used. These are given by the Australian Public Service Commission in its APS Remuneration Report 2012. These median levels are as at 31 December 2012.

6 APS Level 5 base salary median.

7 SES Band 1 base salary median.

8 Executive Level 1 base salary median.

9 APS Level 3 base salary median.

10 Executive Level 2 base salary median.

11 APS Level 3 base salary median.

Share this page

Protecting information rights — advancing information policy