2019/20 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 tenth annual Report on the Operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) 2019/20 (‘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.
We now have 10 years of data to examine the operation of the GIPA Act within the prevailing context and culture and against the principles that were created to underpin the framework of the legislation:
- proactive disclosure,
- a presumption in favour of public interest disclosure, and
- oversight by an independent champion of open government in the form of a new Information Commissioner.
After 10 years, it is reasonable to expect a level of maturation of processes, systems and the ultimate operational determiner – culture.
The Report analyses these 10 years of data and in summary notes:
- The number of applications received by agencies increased by 9% in 2019/20 with 17,246 valid applications received compared to 15,774 in the previous financial year.
- Overall release rates remained stable at 69%, similar to the 70% in 2018/19 and 68% in 2017/18. However, in considering long terms trends, it is noted that after reaching a peak of 80% in 2012/13, the overall release rate has remained static at an average of 65% over the six years since 2014/15.
- The highest release rates in 2019/20 were for applications by private sector business. These applicants have secured combined release rates around 75% and they have maintained these rates over the last 4 years. Accordingly, they are consistently exceeding release rates secured by members of the public (70%).
- Timeliness of decisions has remained stable, with 91% of decisions made within the statutory timeframe consistent with 2018/19 (87%). However, viewed in the context of a 9% increase in valid applications this is a positive outcome. The government sector decided 91% of applications within the statutory time frame, a moderate increase from 85% in 2018/19.
- The rate of deemed refusals has decreased from 8% in 2018/19 to 3% in 2019/20. This decrease is of note given the steady increase in deemed refusals previously reported between 2015/16 and 2018/19 and in the context of the 9% increase in valid applications received in 2019/20.
- Reviews by the Information Commissioner represent 38% of all reviews conducted, demonstrating the importance of independent review. The number of external reviews conducted by the Information Commissioner increased by 6% between 2018/19 (364 reviews) and 2019/20 (386 reviews).
- Compliance by government departments with their requirements to meet their five additional open access requirements was low. Given the significant role government departments perform, their acquisition and disposal of public assets and their inherent risk of corruption it is concerning that in 2020:
- 22% (two departments) had a full or partial list of major assets and acquisitions (consistent with 2018-19).
- 11% (one department) partially met the requirement in relation to both the total number and the total value of properties the department disposed of during the previous financial year while another 67% (six departments) had information only on the value of properties disposed of, mostly included in the department’s annual report.
- 11% (one department) had the department’s guarantee of service (consistent with 2018/19).
- Equally, low levels of compliance by the council sector in respect of their requirement to make available on their websites disclosures of pecuniary and other interests also represents a significant failure of systems, process, and culture.