26 September 2023

Information audit calls for immediate action

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NSW Government Agencies are being told implement immediate changes to comply with open access requirements following a proactive audit by the Information Commissioner.

The Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd said her audit into assets and acquisitions demonstrated a low level of compliance by NSW Government Agencies.

Ms Tydd said she examined the compliance of Government Departments with the mandatory requirement to make publicly available their major assets and acquisitions, together with the total number and value of properties disposed of during the previous financial year in accordance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) and the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation 2018 (GIPA Regulation).

She said the audit followed an ongoing trend identified in previous annual reports where Agency compliance with these open access requirements remained low.

“The Report notes Agencies either failing to publish the required open access information or providing it via alternative mechanisms,” Ms Tydd said.

The Commissioner said that only 40 per cent of Departments disclosed assets and acquisitions publicly, while 20 per cent made the information easy to locate on their websites.

She said another 20 per cent of additional open access requirements were fully accessible to all users on the Departments’ websites without condition.

“The findings from the audit conducted in 2022 into NSW Agencies demonstrate that there is significant work to be done in this important area to address the continuing low levels of compliance,” Ms Tydd said.

“Mandatory public release of open access information promotes consistent and transparent information sharing across NSW Agencies and ensures that members of the public have an immediate and free of charge right of access to important Government information,” she said.

“To achieve compliance, Agencies need to implement immediate changes to ensure information about additional open access is available and online in a format that is easy for citizens to view.”

Ms Tydd made 13 recommendations to all NSW Departments, including to develop internal processes to ensure the information is provided in a timely and consistent manner; actively ensure ease of locating open access information; and ensure that both a list of major assets and a list of major assets acquired in the previous financial year, together with disposals and the value of disposals, is made publicly available.

The Information Commissioner’s 28-page Agency reporting on expenditure of public funds by disclosing the acquisition, disposal and value of major assets as required by the GIPA Act audit report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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