Freedom of Information

Legislation

The purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 1991  is to make the business of government open and accountable to all. The University strives to be an open and accountable organisation in accordance with the Act.

Under the South Australian FOI Act, people in Australia have the right to:

  • request access to documents in the possession of an agency, specifically including the University of South Australia
  • request the amendment of documents that relate to themselves which are incomplete, incorrect, out-of-date or misleading.

State Records has an extensive, helpful FOI website describing these rights. Documents include anything in which information is stored or from which information may be reproduced.

Access to Documents

Not all requests to access information will require a formal application under FOI. The University publishes extensive information about itself on its website. When a person requests access to a document, the first consideration is whether or not access can be granted as part of the normal routine.

For example:

  • Students may access information about themselves via MyUniSA or by making an appointment with Campus Central to view their paper file
  • Staff may access information about themselves via MyUniSA or by making an appointment with the Human Resources office in their Division or Unit to view their paper file
  • Most committee minutes are available to staff of the University, either online or by approaching the executive officer. In some cases, specific items will be confidential.

All University records should be kept in a manner which enables them to be located easily.

FOI is a formal external legislative mechanism for dealing with requests to access material. A matter need not become the subject of an FOI request unless someone has indicated reluctance to release information.

Exemptions

If someone requests access to a document, whose disclosure you believe would be detrimental to the University, you can contact the FOI Officers who may help clarify their rights; or advise them to submit an FOI application.

There are a number of specific exemptions under which documents may not be released. Schedule 1 of the Act, describes the exemptions against which decisions to disclose the specific document need to be tested.

Exemptions are not global or applied to whole categories of documents. Any exemption is assessed against the specific document requested.

If you have documents which are written by or in conjunction with parties outside the University, then make that clear to the FOI Officer as soon as practicable. If a formal request is received, other parties have the right to be consulted before documents are released.

Confidential contracts

Where some or all of the terms of a contract document are required to be kept confidential by the University, the confidentiality clause giving effect to that obligation must be approved by the Vice Chancellor and President or the Vice Chancellor and President's nominee, in advance of the contract being finalised. The nominees of the Vice Chancellor and President for the purposes of approving confidentiality clauses are the Provost and the Chief Operating Officer.

 Protecting confidential contract terms from FOI disclosure

Where the terms of a contract will be confidential

Responsibility: Any University representative negotiating contract

a) Include a confidentiality clause in the contract, which makes it a breach of the contract for the University to disclose the
    contract terms identified as being confidential. Although the exact terms of this clause may vary.

b) Identify the specific parts of the contract document that are confidential, and for which exemption from disclosure under
    the FOI Act is sought, by including the following term in the contract:

c) "For the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 1991 (SA), [insert relevant section or clause number(s), appendix
     number(s), paragraph(s) of the contract, or the words "entire contract", as applicable] of this Agreement is/are
     confidential".

d) Obtain approval of the confidentiality clause in advance of the contract being signed, by forwarding the contract to UniSA
     Legal at mailto:legal.services@unisa.edu.au prior to it being signed by any party, and preferably at the earliest stages of
     the negotiation process. UniSA Legal will arrange for the approval.

Approval of confidentiality clause

Responsibility: Vice Chancellor and President or nominee

a) the confidentiality clause must be authorised by the Vice Chancellor and President, or their delegate, before the contract is
     signed, or else the exemption for confidential material provided in the FOI Act will not apply and the contract document
     may be subject to disclosure under FOI.

b) When determining whether to approve the confidentiality clause keeping the contract terms confidential, the Vice
     Chancellor and President or their nominee must consider whether:

            i) The contract terms in question are genuinely confidential to the parties concerned; and 
            ii) It is in the public interest to keep such terms confidential, having regard to matters such as maintaining the future
                flow of similar information to the University and the future ability of the University to enter or negotiate similar
                contracts.

Reporting and publication obligations

Responsibility: Accredited FOI Officer

a) Ensure the University is registered on the Freedom of Information Management System (FOIMS) and report all FOI
    applications via FOIMS in accordance with the time frames and other requirements set by State Records.

b) Report all contracts containing an authorised confidentiality clause to the minister for Administrative Services and
    Government Enterprises via FOIMS as soon as practicable after the contract has been signed.

c) Ensure the University complies with its general publication obligations under the Act.

Determinations

Determinations under the Act may only be made by accredited FOI Officers, of which the University has two:

  • Penny Moore
  • Douglas Pitt

both of whom work in the Chancellery.

The Vice Chancellor, as Chief Executive Officer of the University of South Australia may make determinations.

Fees

An application for access under Freedom of Information costs $35. There may be further charges for processing and copying if the document(s) are long or complex. Fees may be waived on presentation of evidence of hardship e.g. Health Card.

Time Limits

Under section 14 of the FOI Act an application for access must be determined within 30 days from receipt of the application. This time limit includes locating the document(s), consulting author(s) and assessing exemption(s). Failure to respond (with a formal determination) is deemed as refusal and the application may escalate to Vice Chancellor, State Ombudsman or court.

If you are asked to locate a document by an FOI Officer, please treat the matter as urgent, confidential, and high priority. You must reveal all relevant documents held by the University, whether or not they are generated by UniSA. An FOI request is similar, in law, to a discovery order from a court.

Information Statement

In compliance with Section 9 of the Act, the following website provides information available about the University of South Australia's structure and governance.

Contact

Queries and applications may be directed to:

Douglas Pitt
Freedom of Information Officer
University of South Australia
8302 5598
 FOI@unisa.edu.au