Office of the Australian Information Commissioner - Home

Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Main menu

Chapter 3: Impact of FOI on agency resources

Introduction

This chapter discusses the impact on agency resources of the FOI Act, assessed from reports by agencies relating to the costs of administration of the legislation.

Details of FOI costs identified in 2010-11 are contained in Appendices J and K. For the purposes of calculating the costs of administering the FOI Act, agencies are required to provide an estimate of the staff-hours spent on FOI matters and estimates of 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.

Back to Contents

Summary of total and average costs

The total reported cost attributable to the FOI Act in 2010-11 was $36.318m which is an increase of $8.834m (or 32.1%) on the previous year, while total request numbers increased by 9.3%. Total yearly FOI costs figures since the commencement of the FOI Act are shown in Table 3.1.[1]

Table 3.1 Comparative total yearly cost of FOI
Year Total
1982 to 1983 (seven months only) $7,502,355
1983 to 1984 $15,106,511
1984 to 1985 $16,496,961
1985 to 1986 $15,711,889
1986 to 1987 $13,336,864
1987 to 1988 $11,506,931
1988 to 1989 $10,494,376
1989 to 1990 $10,373,321
1990 to 1991 $9,921,772
1991 to 1992 $12,723,097
1992 to 1993 $12,702,329
1993 to 1994 $13,977,360
1994 to 1995 $11,955,482
1995 to 1996 $14,564,562
1996 to 1997 $15,972,950
1997 to 1998 $12,191,478
1998 to 1999 $13,066,029
1999 to 2000 $14,035,394
2000 to 2001 $14,415,406
2001 to 2002 $17,387,088
2002 to 2003 $18,398,181
2003 to 2004 $20,189,136
2004 to 2005 $22,860,022
2005 to 2006 $24,903,771
2006 to 2007 $24,936,178
2007 to 2008 $29,474,653
2008 to 2009 $30,358,484
2009 to 2010 $27,484,129
2010 to 2011 $36,318,030

Table 3.2 sets out the average cost per FOI request determined (which is the sum of FOI access requests granted in full, in part or refused) from 2000-01 to 2010-11. The cost per request determined has increased by 28.2% from an average of $1,403 in 2009-10 to an average of $1,799 in 2010-11.

Table 3.2 Average cost per request
Year Requests Determined Total Cost Average Cost per Request Determined
2000 to 2001 33,129 $14,415,406 $435
2001 to 2002 35,102 $17,387,088 $495
2002 to 2003 38,370 $18,398,181 $479
2003 to 2004 39,774 $20,189,136 $508
2004 to 2005 36,827 $22,860,022 $621
2005 to 2006 38,987 $24,903,771 $639
2006 to 2007 34,158 $24,936,178 $730
2007 to 2008 31,367 $29,474,653 $940
2008 to 2009 25,139 $30,358,484 $1,208
2009 to 2010 19,583 $27,484,129 $1,403
2010 to 2011 20,187 $36,318,030 $1,799

Chart 3.1 shows the relation of total costs to request numbers received for each year since 1984 to 2085.

Chart 3.1 shows the relation of total costs to request numbers received for each year since 1984-85

Back to Contents

Cost of FOI for 2010 to 2011

Staff costs

All agencies are required to supply information about staff resources allocated to FOI. The 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.

Totals for FOI staffing for 2009-10 and 2010-11 are shown in Table 3.3.

Table 3.3 Total FOI staffing for 2009 to 2010 and 2010 to 2011
Staffing 2009 to 2010 1 July 2010
to 31 Oct 2010
1 Nov 2010
to 30 June 2011
2010 to 2011
Staff Numbers: 75-100% time on FOI matters 217 180 229 213 (weighted average)
Staff Numbers: less than 75% time on FOI matters 2,297 1,323 2,985 2,431 (weighted average)
Total Staff-Hours 404,272 169,303 342,683 511,986
Total Staff-Years 202.1 84.7 171.3 256.0

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 3.4, based on information provided by agenciesand the median salary figures referred to below. The following median base annual salaries were applied[2]:

  • officers whose duties included FOI work $67,017[3]
  • other officers involved in processing requests
    • Senior Executive Service officers (or equivalent) $158,277[4]
    • APS Level 6 and Executive Levels (EL) 1-2 $97,275[5]
    • Australian Public Service (APS) Levels 1-5 $54,577[6]
  • Minister's Office
    • Minister and advisers $120,840[7]
    • Minister's support staff $54,577[8]
Table 3.4 Estimated staff costs of FOI for 2010 to 2011
Type of staff Staff Years Salary Costs ($) Related Costs
(60%) ($)
Total Staff Costs ($)
Officers whose duties included FOI work 202.0 $13,505,349 $8,103,209 $21,608,558
Other officers involved in processing requests
SES 6.8 $1,073,680 $644,208 $1,717,887
APS Level 6 and
Executive Levels 1 to 2
36.3 $3,522,539 $2,113,523 $5,636,062
APS Levels 1 to 5 10.2 $553,705 $332,223 $885,928
Ministerial Staff
Minister and advisers 0.4 $50,630 $30,378 $81,008
Minister's support staff 0.3 $15,789 $9,473 $25,262
Total 256 $18,721,691 $11,233,015 $29,954,706

Identified non-labour expenditure

Non-labour costs directly attributable to FOI are summarised in Table 3.5. Full details are given in Appendix K. Non-labour costs increased by $1,215,712 (or 23.6%) from 2009-10.

Table 3.5 Identified non-labour costs of FOI
Item 2009 to 2010 ($) 2010 to 2011 ($) % change
Photocopying 303,271 375,875 23.9%
Printing 66,313 47,569 -28.3%
Purchase of material 26,076 31,313 20.1%
Postage 98,856 96,996 -1.9%
Telephone 59,982 54,186 -9.7%
Travel 76,666 94,626 23.4%
Solicitors' fees 3,812,249 4,493,897 17.9%
Legal counsel fees 480,182 497,759 3.7%
Applicants' litigation costs 0 0 0.0%
Training 188,735 388,207 105.7%
Other 35,282 282,897 701.8%
Total 5,147,612 6,363,324 23.6%

Average cost per request

Appendix J summarises the costs of all agencies that spent staff-hours on FOI matters or reported a non-labour cost. As in previous years, Appendix J reveals marked differences between agencies in the average staff-days per request received and the average cost per request received. The average staff-days per request ranged from 0.1 to 33.3, with the overall average being 2.9 (up from 2.5 in 2009-10). The average cost per request ranged from $32 to $29,812, with the overall average being $1,539 (up from $1,273 in 2009-10).

Table 3.6 lists the agencies that recorded an average cost of less than $200 per request received in 2010-11.

Table 3.6 Agencies with average cost per request less than $200
Agency Requests Received Average Cost Per Request
Minister for Resources and Energy 3 $32
Australian Research Council 9 $43
Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator 2 $54
Private Health Insurance Ombudsman 1 $54
Migration Review Tribunal 373 $69
Australian Hearing 3 $70
Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development 1 $70
Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency 5 $77
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency 5 $97
Australian Maritime Safety Authority 32 $99
Refugee Review Tribunal 359 $106
Military Superannuation and Benefits Board of Trustees No. 1 56 $145
Indigenous Land Corporation 2 $151
Screen Australia 6 $156
Minister for Home Affairs 8 $181
Australian Electoral Commission 7 $191

Table 3.7 lists the agencies that recorded an average cost of greater than $10,000 per request received in 2010-11. The number of agencies recording an average cost per request of greater than $10,000 decreased from 11 in 2009-10 to ten in 2010-11.

Table 3.7 Agencies with average cost per request greater than $10,000
Agency Requests Received Average Cost Per Request
Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General 2 $29,812
National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority 11 $19,864
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 24 $15,557
Treasurer 4 $13,173
Wheat Exports Australia 1 $12,515
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 68 $12,467
Department of Defence 362 $11,933
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 47 $11,323
Director of Public Prosecutions 20 $10,943
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation 15 $10,730

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, most work across two or all three functions. Accordingly, 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. As detailed in the OAIC's Annual Report 2010-11, the OAIC's total expenditure for the reporting period-that is, from its establishment on 1 November 2010 until 30 June 2011-was $8.379m. Accordingly, the OAIC estimates that it spent approximately $2.933m on the exercise of its FOI functions in 2010-11.[9]

Back to Contents


Footnotes

[1] 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 that the figures before 2006-07 are not strictly comparable with the figures since then.

[2] As salary levels differ between agencies, median salary levels were used, as given in the 2010 APS Remuneration Survey. These median levels are as at 31 December 2010 (see ).

[3] APS Level 5 base salary median.

[4] SES Band 1 base salary median.

[5] Executive Level 1 base salary median.

[6] APS Level 3 base salary median.

[7] Executive Level 2 base salary median.

[8] APS Level 3 base salary median.

[9] The OAIC spent $10,521 on processing FOI requests made to the OAIC (see Appendix J) including non-labour costs of $330 (see Appendix K).