News: Report on the operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009: 2013 - 2014
The Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd has tabled a report in Parliament on the operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) for 2013 – 2014, which is a requirement under section 37 of the Government Information (Information Commissioner) Act 2009 (GIIC Act).
Consistent with the intent of the GIPA Act the 2013 – 2014 Report provides a general examination of all four information release pathways – mandatory release, authorised release, informal release and access applications.
The Report collected data across five government sectors – NSW Government agencies, State-owned corporations and Ministers, Universities and local Councils – and provides a statistical analysis on how the law is being implemented and complied with in these sectors.
“This Report follows on from the inaugural report delivered in June 2014, which covered the years 2010 – 2013, and is a first step in broadening the scope of how we report on the operation of the Act via the four information release pathways,” Ms Tydd said.
This is the first year in which the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) has been able to better understand how the four information release pathways operate, both individually and collectively, and whether they are achieving the Act’s objective of early and proactive release of information.
“Encouragingly, several consistent trends were identified in the 2013 – 2014 Report that can be attributed to improved decision-making across all sectors covered by the GIPA Act,” Ms Tydd said.
Key findings include:
- high levels of compliance with mandatory proactive release in the Council sector (89%) and Government sector (84%);
- agency internal reviews (access applications) continue to be the preferred channel (75%);
- information release rates have been maintained (74%), refusal rates remain constant (8%) and decisions varied by the internal review process increased to 72% in 2013 – 2014;
- however, there are reduced levels of agency timeliness in deciding access applications (80%) and application rates continue to fluctuate decreasing by 27% since 2010; and
- compliance of authorised proactive release is lower compared to past years (64%).
While the 2013 – 2014 Report provides some positive results, Ms Tydd acknowledged that there is still work to be done to promote access to information and achieve the objects of the Act.
“To address these areas, my key focus for 2015 will include an enhancement of the GIPA case management tool provided by the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) to enable agencies to better manage applications; guidance regarding proactive release; increased training including e-learning modules for citizens and agency staff; an information management scholarship; and promotion of a holistic approach to information management to deliver greater efficiencies in streamlining service delivery, improve timeliness and promote compliance.
“Training will also focus on improved decision-making at the initial stage to make information available at the earliest point and thereby promote proactive release of information,” said Ms Tydd.
“The Act’s promotion of the presumption in favour of disclosure across all four information release pathways provides the most powerful demonstration of open and accountable government.
“The way forward continues to be one of guidance, and harnessing the full potential of the Act’s pathways requires a prudent understanding of the legislation, its intent and operation,” said Ms Tydd.