In 2017, Australian Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen released the inaugural dashboard of metrics on public use of freedom of information (FOI) access rights.
The metrics are the first of their kind and will enable the community to examine the performance of their local FOI laws and to advocate accordingly, as well as improving community understanding of how FOI laws work and how to access them.
The metrics reflect the currently available data that is reasonably comparable across jurisdictions and the priorities agreed in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan, to develop uniform metrics on public use of FOI access rights (Commitment 3.2) to promote the importance of better measuring and improving our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws.
The inaugural dashboard covers data from 2014-15 to 2016 -17, including:
- count of formal applications by type of applicant
- formal applications received per capita
- percentage of decisions on formal applications where access was granted in full or part
- percentage of all decisions made on formal applications where access was refused in full
- percentage of all decisions made within the statutory timeframes
- percentage of applications received which are reviewed by the jurisdiction’s Information Commissioner/Ombudsman.
The SA data for Metric 3 and 4 for 2014-15 and 2015-16 differ from those originally published. The original figures were affected by an error in the jurisdiction’s calculations.
The OAIC’s data originally provided for Metric 5 (Timeliness) for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 OGP Metric Dashboard was incorrect due to a mistake in the calculation. The correct calculation has now been used for the data provided for Metric 5 for the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years.
The decline in the timeliness of FOI processing by Commonwealth agencies and ministers over these three financial years is attributable to an agency that receives a large proportion of all Commonwealth FOI requests. The OAIC is working with this agency to address this issue.
About the development of the dashboard and FOI metrics
On 7 December 2016, the Australian Government announced the finalisation of Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan (NAP). This included a commitment to develop uniform metrics on public use of freedom of information (FOI) access rights (Commitment 3.2) to promote the importance of better measuring and improving our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws.
The Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) has led the development of the metrics on behalf of and with the involvement of the Commonwealth, state and territory Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen within the remit of their jurisdictions (the Australian Association of Information Access Commissioners – AIAC).
There has also been broad consultation with civil society representatives and the general public. Generally respondents were supportive of the metrics, with suggested additional metrics such as applicant satisfaction with redaction, and fees and charges, withdrawal rates and reasons for refusal. A description of the metrics and summary of the consultation feedback has also been published and this feedback is being considered in the further development of the metrics.
Some jurisdictions have moved from a reactive or “pull model” of information release to a proactive or “push model”. The push model requires agencies to proactively push information out to the community, as much as possible, with the goal of making formal applications a last resort. This difference may be reflected in the national dataset dashboard.
The dashboard will be updated each year once all jurisdiction data has been reported.