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Friday, February 06, 2009

The twin crises an opportunity if players aren't distracted

Who is this? Is he The MAN on Freedom of Information in NSW? Last para for answers, sort of.

Anonymous in a comment on the NSW Review post yesterday is a bit too prematurely pessimistic:
"Rees is too busy pretending to do something about the so-called “Global Financial Crisis” and watching out for his own back to worry about Freedom of Information. Oh what a sorry state of affairs we have here."
The Premier deserves a go but the going is sure to be tough, given the twin crises, the Premier's "back problem", and some of the attitudes towards openness alive and well in some ministerial offices and at senior levels in some government agencies as documented in the Ombudsman's report. The Premier's initial response also was far from "Obamalike" with no strong in principle acceptance (in essence thanks for the roadmap- that's the direction we'd like to go in) or new directives about immediate changes. The lead up to cabinet consideration of "each of the Ombudsman's 88 recommendations" (the Premier's words sounded like the wheels of public service process starting to creak), and the absence of a specific deadline could suggest a bureaucrats' picnic.

The point is that the crises shouldn't be a distraction but an opportunity for a government looking for ways to show it's different. New thinking about transparency and accountability needs to be evident now about all aspects of government, particularly the allocation of large dollops of taxpayers' money. Old thinking in government was that someone might might ask in a year's time who got what, for what purpose and for the details about how decisions were made and how the taxpayers money was spent, so we need to be careful to not leave too many tracks.New era thinking is the public have to be kept fully informed about our decisions and the use of public money so we need to have relevant information up on the web in easily accessible and searchable form so anyone interested can follow the decision making trail as we go.

As mentioned earlier in the week the concept of a local equivalent of US (still only at the ready) should be part of our new thinking about these things.

Meanwhile deep in the towers in the city plans for the interdepartmental committee are being drawn up as we speak, terms of reference are being drafted and a bit of pushing and shoving is going on about who will be in the chair and in the room, and particularly who is going to keep the minutes. Only joking....?

And if the Premier is the ball-carrier on the Open Government Information Bill, where if anywhere does the newly sworn in Minister for Public Service Reform (the first in living memory- at least mine), John Robertson, fresh from years at Unions NSW fit into the picture? Maybe the biggest distraction at the moment, from the Premier down, is one of another name.

[Update:Its a great sounding title and the sort of thing the NSW Ombudsman is talking about in the report on Freedom of Information released last week sure sounds like it will require plenty of public sector reform but no, it looks like the Minister who bears the title Public Sector Reform in NSW won't have anything to do with moving FOI reform right along. John Robertson's responsibilities are limited to matters concerning the following according to the latest allocation of ministerial responsibilities:
Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 No 48, Part 9A (remainder, the Attorney General)
Government and Related Employees Appeal Tribunal Act 1980 No 39
Public Sector Employment and Management Act 2002 No 43, jointly with the Premier (except, Part 2.2, section 63(2), section 116 and Chapter 4, the Premier; and Chapter 7, jointly the Treasurer and the Minister for Commerce)
Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Act 1975 (1976 No 4)
Transport Appeal Boards Act 1980 No 104]

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