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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NSW Information Commissioner review functions

The Office of NSW Information Commissioner has had a busy first six months since the commencement of the GIPA act, and the lead up to integration of that office and Privacy NSW. Not much has been published about what's been happening with the resolution of external review applications that can now be sought from the Commissioner (powers on review are recommendatory not determinative), the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal or both. Nether the Commission nor the Tribunal have published statistics for this period. Of interest  are the number of applications, and how many reaffirm the original decision (an indicator of the quality of primary decisions), how quickly matters are being resolved or determined in the OIC, and what agencies and users of the act can learn from Commissioner decisions.

I put these questions to the office on 1 December:

How many review applications have been received?

How many have been resolved, and how many by formal determination?

Presumably an initial attempt is made to resolve a matter to the satisfaction of the applicant. But will there be a time limit-weeks, months- on how long is spent on this ?

Can the applicant initially or at a later time insist a matter be subject to determination by the Commissioner?  In other words is agreement to mediation mandatory or optional?

Is there a time target for disposal of review applications? (The Privacy Commissioner in the past used 12 months as a measure which hardly seems an acceptable standard in most cases. The ADT reports against 6 and 12 month time frames from memory.)

Will decisions or summaries be published, in what form and frequency?

On 14 December the response, as below that around 17 of 105 review requests have been completed. (The Queensland Commissioner received 439 review requests in the first full year of the operation of the new act there- the lower comparative number in NSW may be  a positive or negative indicator of public awareness, quality of agency decisions or other factors.) Nothing has been published to date about what agencies are involved, the outcomes, issues that have been considered, or the Commissioner's application of the law  particularly in weighing public interest considerations. The target turn around time for a review is three months
As at 10 December 2010, the OIC has received 141 requests for assistance: 105 were for reviews of decisions made by agencies under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act). The remainder were complaints about agency GIPA-related processes or procedures.Thirty three of these issues have been closed (about 50% in each category.)  All have been resolved by the OIC providing recommendations. Generally agencies have accepted the OIC recommendations which have primarily been around the format and content of decision records.

At the moment, we are working towards an average processing time of 60 working days.

The OIC is still determining our policies around publicising decisions and / or summaries - when this policy is finalised, it will be available on our website.  We are also currently developing a reporting template on key measures that will be available on the web in the first quarter of 2011..."


  1. Anonymous5:21 pm

    You’ve asked some very apt questions there.

    It would be nice to see a regular flow of information from the Information Commissioner’s office so we all know how this new era of openness is progressing.

    I’m somewhat concerned about the 60 day turnaround though. Some agencies may be using this period as a “time extension”.

  2. Peter Timmins10:49 pm

    60 days?-it's 60 working days.

  3. Anonymous12:38 pm

    Oh my :(

  4. Terry Sharples3:59 pm

    Peter my info application 30 Sept 2010 re: Tweed Shire Council took until 16 february 2011 to attract a GIPA response.

    The GIPA recommendations resulted in a 7 page review decision by the agency and the release of 40 pages of redacted documents either in there entirity or to a level of 90 - 100%. In other words I got the documents, but not the information.

    I referred that decision back to GIPA, for yet another review.

    The documents in question were - the contract extention of the agencies general manager, his preformance assessment and some secret "commercial in confidence" council minutes re the GM's contract.