Administrative Law Rev
Freedom of Information Act 1982 is entirely in the interest of public who can have access to various documents of government of Victoria and its public agencies for verification or for any other useful purpose. The sole objective of FOI Act is to bring awareness among public whether the functioning and operations of government are in order and how public analyze the same.
Section 22 provides about the charges to be paid for having access to specific documents. The section provides technical details of payment of fee that is calculated with time that is taken for search of documents. This is particularly due to the fact that the time taken for search of documents may vary depending on the date of publication of document.
This is also in order to reduce the payment of fee to be paid by public. All sectors of public may not afford to pay high rate of fees for having access to government documents. In view of such as these reasons, hourly rate and time taken for search of documents has been included in this section. The section also covers transcription (h) and routine requests (g) and in case of inspection of documents no charge shall be calculated (f) in pursuance of Section 8(1) or 11(1).
Section 27 clearly states about reasons of refusal of documents by a Minister of state to that effect, applicant shall be informed about the reasons in writing. This section is somewhat complicated with the fact that a minister or a government official is a servant of public and with that motive, public must be provided access to the documents which is the sole purpose of FOI Act. This section is likely to give rise to conflicts between and may bring a deep dissatisfaction to public.
Some of the documents that contain health information are also restricted with the provisions of Health Records Act 2001, which of these reasons are also to be stated to applicant. Although there are clauses for applying of review of decisions, launch complain to Ombudsmen, it is both time consuming and undecisive for applicants to move further with such grievances.
Section 50 deals with applications for review which would be pending with Tribunal for decisions. This may pertain to a request for document, charge made, decision for access, or any other specific request regarding information under FOI Act. The Tribunal in all respects has to deal with each individual case, giving its due importance of provisions along with genuine reasons.
This section is in favor of public, as Tribunal shall reconsiders and reviews the decisions and grants permissions to public in various aspects that are relevant to FOI Act. The Tribunal may refuse the decision of Minister or agency and give an order in favor of public. Those issues or requests for documents which were not considered by Minister, are very well resolved at Tribunal by applicants.
Section 51 states that an applicant may apply to Principal officer or Minister for review of decision, which was given in the deemed absence within 28 days for review of decision or refusing to give access to health documents as per Section 36 of Health Records Act 2001.
This section offers powers and opportunities to public for reconsideration of requests for having access to documents. Applicants have to be excessively vigilant in deriving the maximum benefit from the government bodies and officials. This section is both useful for public and for principal officers to check the veracity of facts in all respects.
Section 51A deals with conciliation of Health Service Commissioner which state that issues that were deferring in Section 50 and 51 in the matters of health documents, may suitably be taken up by applicant with this section and apply for Health Service Commissioner’s decision. In case Health Service Commissioner fails to conciliate a request, to that effect an notice in writing must be issued to both applicant and Principal Officer.
This appears as a last resort for applicant as the decision of Health Service Commissioner is the final approach for an applicant.
The enactment of FOI is made with a view of regularizing the functioning and to increase the working efficiency of governments. Apart from this fact, the public are also provided an in-depth knowledge about information and working status of governments. Although there are many technicalities involved in FOI Act, each section, sub-section and clause, a significance of reason is attached to it for the benefit of both public and governing bodies.