26 September 2023

OAIC records big year of FOI

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The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) received a surge in freedom of information (FOI) complaints last financial year, along with a significant increase in applications for reviews of FOI decisions made by Agencies and ministers.

Releasing the Office’s Annual Report 2021-22, Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said there had been high demand for the OAIC’s services throughout the year.

Commissioner Falk said her Office saw a 60 per cent increase in requests for Information Commissioner (IC) reviews of FOI decisions and a 42 per cent increase in FOI complaints.

She said the OAIC finalised 35 per cent more IC reviews and 28 per cent more FOI complaints than the previous year.

“While the OAIC continues to finalise more applications for IC reviews year on year, the increased volume, together with the complexity of some matters, is a major challenge,” Commissioner Falk said.

“While we continually review our processes to create further efficiencies, we are also identifying where systemic improvements can be made in the FOI system,” she said.

“Importantly, proactive publication of information supports timely access to information, reduces the need for members of the community to make FOI applications and minimises FOI processing costs for Agencies.”

Commissioner Falk said that in 2021–22, the OAIC recorded a three per cent increase in privacy complaints (2,544) and finalised two per cent more privacy complaints than in 2020-21.

She said her Office also received 853 notifications under the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme (down from 967 the previous year) and finalised 81 per cent of NDBs within 60 days – against a target of 80 per cent.

“Recent high profile data breaches have both elevated public concern about the handling of personal data, and increased momentum to strengthen the Privacy Act,” the Commissioner said.

“Combined with increasing demand for our FOI review functions, we expect another active year as we strive to promote and uphold privacy and information access rights for the community.”

Commissioner Falk said her Office handled 10,931 privacy enquiries (down six per cent) and 1,940 FOI enquiries (up six per cent).

The OAIC’s 178-page Annual Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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