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3.5.2 Disclosure of information a person discloses information to the Department, every effort should be made to have the informant provide his/her name and address. Informants are not obliged to give their name and address, but they should be advised that if they do so, the Department does not disclose personal information unless authorised under the Privacy Act 1988. informant can be advised that in the event of a request for their personal details it would be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. Under section 27 of the Act, the Department would have to consult with an informant prior to making any decision to grant access to any documents containing personal information about them. may not always be possible to exempt information from an FOI request relating to pensioners who are the subject of a denunciation. However, access to information relating to informants is likely to be refused under various exemptions, depending on the circumstances. The exemptions include:

  • Section 41 in the FOI Act on the basis that disclosure would be unreasonable disclosure of personal information relating to the informant
  • Section 45 in the FOI Act on the basis that disclosure of the information would be a breach of confidence
  • Paragraph 37(1)(b) in the FOI Act on the basis that disclosure would, or could reasonably be expected to disclose, or enable a person to ascertain, the identity of a confidential source of information, in relation to the enforcement or administration of the law; and
  • Paragraph 40(1)(d) in the FOI Act on the basis that disclosure would have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of the Department. the informant inquires about the outcome of departmental investigations, it should be explained that the Privacy Act 1988 prohibits giving information about pensioners to third parties where the pensioner has not authorised the disclosure. However, the informant can be told that the Department takes all allegations seriously and will investigate and act on those found to be correct. responding to an informant a general statement such as the one below may be used:

Thank you for the information you have provided. All allegations are fully investigated. Where allegations are substantiated, action is taken. However, because of the strict requirements of the Privacy Act 1988, I cannot provide you with information about the results of any action taken. dealing with denunciation cases must ensure that any access to information is processed under the FOI Act to protect the anonymity of the informant. It should be remembered that any requests for access to information in documentary form should be passed to the FOI Section for attention. It should also be remembered that careful perusal of documents will be necessary to determine which, if any, can be exempted. Personal information about the informant may be identifiable without a name or signature. The Privacy Act 1988 defines personal information as: information or an opinion (including information or an opinion forming part of a database), whether true or not, and whether recorded in a material form or not, about an individual whose identity is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion.

For example, someone who describes him/herself as 'neighbour' may readily be identifiable without a name and address. a pensioner asks whether the Department is conducting an investigation into his/her affairs, we cannot deny that we are making inquiries. The pensioner may be advised of the allegations that have been made, providing that the informant is not identified. However, it is not necessary to inform the pensioner of the investigation, or the reason for it, unless asked.