2018/19 GIPA Act Report tabled in Parliament
The NSW Information Commissioner, Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) CEO and Open Data Advocate, Ms Elizabeth Tydd, today released the ninth annual Report on the Operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) 2018-2019 (‘the Report’), which has now been tabled in Parliament.
The Report is a comprehensive assessment of the operation of the right to information legislation in New South Wales. It promotes greater transparency for the NSW community by examining the performance of over 240 government agencies and providing important guidance to policy makers and agency heads.
Three fundamental changes are now immutable features of the new government paradigm: digital government and data application; increasing partnerships and outsourcing arrangements, and novel models of government that transcend traditional sectorial arrangements.
These changes have significant impacts upon citizens and importantly their right to access information. Accordingly, there is an increasing need to promote accountability and transparency and to assure Open Government. Legal rights are not displaced under new service delivery and decision-making models and increasingly there is a need to raise awareness of the obligation to protect and promote information access rights and the principles of open government. The GIPA Act must be considered and applied by agencies as they harness the benefits of digital service delivery and outsource government services.
The Report analyses transactional data and in summary notes:
- The number of applications received by agencies remained stable in 2018/19 with 15,774 valid applications received compared to 15,921 in the previous financial year. Consistent with previous years the government sector continued to account for the great majority (80%) of valid applications.
- Overall release rates increased slightly to 70%, an increase from 68% in 2017/18. This is a positive outcome reflecting a return to the 2016/17 release rates.
- Reviews by the Information Commissioner represent 40% of all reviews conducted, demonstrating the dominance of this independent review avenue.
- 100% compliance with the mandatory proactive release requirements for Agency Information Guides (AIG); policy documents; disclosure logs and contracts registers was achieved by government departments. This is a convincing and commendable outcome.
- Programs for the authorised proactive release of government information increased to the highest level reported to date at 93%.
- While overall timeliness has been consistent at 87%, there has been a downward trend in timeliness since 2015/16 when 93% of applications were decided within time in the government sector.
- The rate of deemed refusals has increased steadily from 3% reported in 2015/16 to 8% in 2018/19.
This year’s data is largely reflective of the positive maturation of information access systems, policies and procedures within agencies to deal with proactive release of information. It also reflects enhanced compliance in most regulatory areas targeted by the IPC.
In 2018/19, the IPC continued to apply a strategic, proactive approach to regulation and conducted a number of audits and monitoring of agency compliance. These initiatives provided measurable results and enabled targeted regulatory action to be taken to enhance compliance.
Overall, the response by agencies to this approach demonstrated a commitment to compliance together with evidence of the effectiveness of this strategic approach to address extant and emerging compliance risks.