10 years of reporting on the GIPA Act: evolving demands for information access
July saw the release of the latest Report on the Operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) by the NSW Information and Privacy Commission, detailing the performance of over 200 state government agencies…
July saw the release of the latest Report on the Operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) by the NSW Information and Privacy Commission, detailing the performance of over 200 state government agencies for the period 2019-2020 in relation to the GIPA Act.
This release marks the 10th anniversary of reporting on the Act and provides some compelling insights into both the public’s demand for access to government information, as well as agencies’ abilities to meet the standards required by the Act.
While there has been a consistent increase in access applications received over the ten-year period, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd notes the huge growth in applications received by members of the public, which have increased by 128% over ten years.
Of these, applications seeking personal information held by agencies have increased a staggering 230%, reflecting the public’s improved awareness of their right-to-know, and their increasing appetite for exercising that right.
One of the cornerstones of GIPA is its emphasis on proactive information disclosure, mandating the publication of “open access information” to address risks of corruption and to improve transparency around government decision-making. This type of information includes:
- details of agencies’ structure and functions
- policy documents
- registers of significant public service contracts, and a list of agencies’ major assets
- disclosures to combat corruption, such as pecuniary and other interests
Commissioner Tydd notes in her report that, although compliance with proactive disclosure requirements rose to 72% in 2019-20, this figure also reflects a downward trend from an all-time high of 83% in 2018-17.
Lack of compliance
Lack of compliance with open access information requirements has remained significant risk throughout the ten-year reporting period. For example, in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 only two agencies had full or partial lists of major assets and acquisitions, and only one agency released their guarantee of service. This lack of compliance is also reflected in complaints finalised by the Commission, with 23% of complaints concerning open access information.
Immature systems and processes, lack of resourcing, and, most importantly, organisational culture, are citied as contributing to this lack of compliance.
Information access should be an integral part of any agency’s information governance program. But like any governance initiative, top-down support from the agency’s senior leaders is required for it to succeed, and to set the tone for the organisation’s “information culture” . This, when accompanied by appropriate, systems, processes, people, and policies, will support both compliance with proactive release obligations, and the timely, low-cost release of applicants’ personal information.
In closing, Commissioner Tydd remarks, “in an environment that recognises information as a public asset, that asset should, like all public assets, be preserved against reckless destruction or interference. It is the responsibility of individual agencies to achieve high standards of disclosure and release to promote transparent government and elevate public trust”. With the public’s increasing need to access their own information, and the dependency of fast, accurate, data-driven decision-making, this has never been more important.
For expert eDiscovery Consulting Services
Call 1300 986 856 or click here
Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Perth