State of Freedom of Information in Victoria

State of Freedom of Information in Victoria

The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) has published a report on the State of Freedom of Information in Victoria: Five Years in Review 2014 – 2019.

The report provides a five year overview of the administration of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (FOI Act) in Victoria, measures its effectiveness, illustrates trends and highlights challenges.

The report shows there is room for improvement, and the Victorian Information Commissioner is calling for agencies to commit to greater public access to government information.

OVIC collects FOI data from around 1,000 agencies subject to the FOI Act each year for OVIC’s annual report on the operation of the FOI Act to Parliament. This data was analysed relating to FOI requests received, decision making, reviews, complaints, costs and challenges in administering the FOI Act.

The State of FOI in Victoria report is the first report of its nature published by OVIC, with the aim of promoting understanding of FOI in Victoria to agencies and the public. OVIC also aims to facilitate a discussion and provide recommendations on how the public’s right to access information can be better promoted and protected.

Action
If you’re a VIC government entity that falls within the scope of the VIC FOI Act, read the OVIC’s report. It includes many useful statistics and observations that you can use to (loosely) benchmark your organisation against.

Interestingly, it sets out the common challenges that VIC government entities faced in relation to FOI along with possible solutions. Challenges include:

* staff resourcing, including recruiting and retaining skilled FOI officers;
* reduced statutory timeframe under the FOI Act to process requests;
* obligations under the FOI Act for agencies to consult with third parties about the release of information due to the impact of consulting on staff resources and meeting statutory timeframes; and
* increased FOI workloads due to the increased number of FOI requests received, the number of FOI requests being processed at the same time, the increased number of large and complex FOI requests and the increased volume of records held by agencies in different forms and locations.

You can read the full report here.