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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Government grants out in the open, in some places.

In addition to the Commonwealth contract information in the public domain that has had a going over in the Sydney Morning Herald this week, another public disclosure advance worth noting is the publication of Government grants. I haven't checked what's there and what isn't but a big tick for putting grants from various agencies up on a single site. The search engine includes a city option to search grants by locality. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner issued a direction in January last year that each agency publish a list of grants on its website. This centralised data base is a step forward on that. However the publication requirement should have a basis in legislation. Grants like contracts should be explicit publication requirements spelled out in the Freedom of Information Reform legislation currently before Parliament. They aren't at present.

I don't know what happens in the states in this area, other than in NSW where such a system doesn't but should exist, and again should be legislated. The modest publication requirements for state government agencies in the GIPA Act (yet to commence) could be extended by regulation in this and other areas (although contract disclosures in NSW are miles ahead of the Commonwealth) but there hasn't been a public word about any intention to do so. In NSW,you might find this information in an agency annual report, published up to a 15 months after the event, or if you make a specific application as the Opposition did recently to produce a couple of headline grabbers in the Telegraph some weeks ago. Automatic online searchable information on grants should be expected these days.

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