2020/21 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 eleventh annual Report on the Operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act): 2020/21 (‘the Report’), which has now been tabled in Parliament.
The Report provides a comprehensive assessment of the operation of the right to information legislation in NSW and examines the performance of over 250 public sector agencies. It provides important guidance to policymakers and agency heads and promotes greater transparency for the NSW community.
The Report notes:
- This year, there was an unprecedented increase in applications for information made by NSW citizens. The number of applications for information received by agencies increased by a staggering 30% in 2020/21, with 22,349 valid applications received compared with 17,246 in the previous financial year. 82% of the increase in applications this year has been driven by members of the public.
- The number of applications received in 2020/21 is the highest recorded in over a decade of reporting. Notably, in the four years between 2017 and 2021, the percentage of applications made by members of the public increased from 73% of all applications received to 82%, which outstrips any other category of applicant.
- Outcomes for legally represented members of the public comprise 41% of all outcomes. This equates to a 39% increase in applications made by legal representatives, with an increase from 6,646 applications from legal representatives in 2019/20 to 9,244 in 2020/21.
- The underlying drivers of the increase in applications relate to applications for:
- partly personal information and partly other information where there was an increase in outcomes by 97% (from 1,828 outcomes in 2019/20 to 3,607 in 2020/21). This continues the trend observed in previous years, resulting in a 141% increase between 2018/19 and 2020/21.
- other than personal information where there was an increase in outcomes by 40% (5,812 in 2019/20 compared with 8,126 outcomes in 2020/21).
- Consistent with previous years, the Government sector continued to account for the great majority (17,870 or 80%) of valid applications; the number of applications significantly increased by 27% from 14,082 in 2019/20 to 17,870 in 2020/21.
- Applications to the Council sector also increased significantly by 47% (2,756 in 2019/20 to 4,055 in 2020/21).
- Reviews by the Information Commissioner continue to represent the most accessed review right, with applications for review by the Information Commissioner representing 38% of all reviews conducted. This data demonstrates the continued dominance of this independent review avenue.
- The balance between decisions upheld and decisions overturned on internal and external review has changed this year, with a moderate decline in decisions upheld, from 52% in 2019/20 to 43% in 2020/21. This moderate decline is noteworthy, given that the percentage of all reviews that upheld the original decision had been relatively stable across the prior six years. This change in balance is also reflected in the moderate increase in reviews by the Information Commissioner that recommended that agencies reconsider their decisions, from 53% reported in 2019/20 to 64% reported in 2020/21.
- This year, like last year, compliance by Government departments with their requirements to meet their five additional open access requirements continues to remain low. Last year, the low compliance rate was drawn to the attention of each Cluster Secretary highlighting the pro-integrity purpose of these specific additional open access requirements and their low levels of compliance. Given the global stagnation in openness by governments, including the decline in budget openness, it is concerning that in 2020/21:
- 22% (two departments) only partially met the requirement in relation to major assets and acquisitions. This is consistent with 2019/20.
- 33% (three departments) only 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, with this being a moderate increase on 11% in 2019/20; another 67% (five departments) had some information only on the value of properties disposed of, mainly in the department’s annual report. This is consistent with 2019/20.
- 22% (two departments) had the department’s guarantee of service. This is an increase from 11% (one department) in 2019/20.
- This year, like last year, in the Council sector there also was an unacceptable level of non-compliance in respect of the specific pro-integrity disclosure requirements. The IPC’s targeted compliance audit found that 30% of councils were non-compliant and overall, there were inadequate systems, policies and practices to support compliance. Notably, 11 more councils reported their compliance data to IPC in 2020/21.
Read more in the IPC’s Media Release: NSW Information Commissioner report reveals an unprecedented increase in applications for government information.