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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Office of Australian Information Commissioner cashed up with $12 million

The Office of Australian Information Commissioner has been allocated $11.9 million in the 2011-2012 Budget. With $720,000 carried over from the current year, available resources will be $12.6 million for this its first full year of operation.The estimated actual 2010-2011 expenditure is $10.3 million-presumably for the year since November for the combined operation and the July-November 2010 period for the Privacy Commission when it had stand alone status. The Portfolio Budget Statement PDF 140KB, like all such documents is as dry as dust, and full of that language beloved by bureaucrats. But there are some indications of what to expect in the year ahead.

The sole OAIC Outcome is described thus:
Provision of public access to Commonwealth Government information, protection of individuals’ personal information, and performance of information commissioner, freedom of information and privacy functions.
In order to achieve this outcome the strategic priorities are
• promoting open government by encouraging proactive publication
• participating in the development and implementation of the national information policy framework
• promoting and securing the protection of personal information
• enhancing the OAIC’s capacity to achieve its vision of ‘An Australia where government information is managed as a national resource and personal information is respected and protected’.
The OAIC’s program objectives for the year list intentions to:
• conduct reviews of FOI decisions made by ministers and agencies
• monitor, investigate and report on agency compliance with the FOI Act
• assist agencies in their implementation of the Information Publication Scheme  under the FOI Act, and review agency compliance with the Information Publication Scheme
• promote awareness and understanding of the FOI Act and its objectives
• investigate complaints about interference with privacy
• inquire into acts or practices that may be interferences with privacy
• conduct audits of the personal information handling practices of Commonwealth and ACT agencies and other organisations covered by the Privacy Act
• foster public discussion and conduct educational programs to promote proactive publication, access to information and privacy protection
• advice on information management in Australian Government agencies.
OAIC Program Deliverables for the year are "privacy and FOI complaint handling services, privacy compliance activities, FOI merit review services, Information Publication Scheme compliance reviews, privacy and FOI enquiries services, advice and assistance on information management practices across the Australian Government, and promotion and educational activities" with these measurables of program activity:
  • finalising 80% of privacy and Freedom of Information complaints within 12 months, and completing 80% FOI merit reviews within 6 months, which won't necessarily comfort those hoping for speedy turnaround time on their matter;
  • completing an unspecified number of audit reviews of personal information handling practices within 6 months of commencement, and
  • undertaking 10 Information Publication Scheme compliance reviews.
OAIC"s key performance indicators are probably no better or worse than those published by other agencies. But while they might throw some light on whether high level planned achievements are on track, they are hardly robust measures of progress towards meeting government objectives (for example culture change) and how well public money is being spent:
• Australian Government agencies have implemented and comply with the requirements of the Information Publication Scheme and disclosure logs.
• Any reviews requested by the Government as part of the implementation of FOI reforms have been conducted.
• Principles on open public sector information have been published and promoted.
• A methodology for the measurement of the economic and social value of public sector information has been developed.
• OAIC merits review and complaint handling processes meet timeliness and quality benchmarks.
• Information and education products on privacy, FOI and information policy have been developed and meet stakeholder needs.

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