FOI watchdog Lynne Bertolini to meet targets with more staff, less money

The Napthine government will give Victoria's freedom of information watchdog more staff to deal with complaints, while also diluting her performance targets so she can meet agreed timelines, at the same time as it is reducing her budget.

Weeks after The Sunday Age revealed that FOI commissioner Lynne Bertolini was unable to meet her deadlines for reviews against government departments - resulting in 121 requests for extensions - the government announced it would provide two assistant commissioners to help.

Several staff will also be seconded from the Justice Department to create an education program for the public sector, which collectively receives more than 33,000 FOI requests a year.

Attorney-General Robert Clark said the changes would strengthen the role of the FOI commissioner, a reform he said ''Labor refused to do in their entire 11 years in office''.

But budget papers also reveal the commissioner will get less funding next financial year - $2.7 million, compared with $3.5 million this year - and that performance targets have been reduced ''to take into account the volume and complexity'' of requests.

Instead of being expected to meet agreed timelines in 100 per cent of cases, the target has been lowered to 85 per cent.

Asked if she was satisfied with the powers and resources she was given by the government, or whether she would seek further reforms, Ms Bertolini told The Sunday Age: ''It is still early days, and while the office of the FOI commissioner is past the initial establishment phase, I am continuously examining internal processes to ensure this office operates as efficiently and effectively as possible.''

But Martin Pakula, Labor's scrutiny of government spokesman, accused the Coalition of setting up the FOI commissioner to fail.

''Deadlines can't be met and ministers can't be compelled to release anything. Nobody blames the FOI commissioner - she's been hamstrung by insufficient powers, and now by a funding cut,'' he said.

Mr Clark, however, said the $2.7 million allocation was similar to the amount received this year ''after allowing for $800,000 of a one-off start-up and carry-over funding in 2013-14''.

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