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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Steady budget allocation for NSW Information and Privacy

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The NSW Information and Privacy Commission received an allocation of $5.4 million in the 2011-2012 Budget yesterday (Budget Paper 3 Attorney General and Justice pages 2-62 to 2-68) for the first full year of operations for the combined entity. Last year the Information Commissioner received a total of $4.5 million.The allocation for Privacy NSW, then a business unit of the Department Justice and Attorney General, was not mentioned separately but buried somewhere in departmental accounts. The Privacy NSW Annual Report for 2009-2010 suggests annual expenditure of around $1 million, so in a tight budget Treasury no doubt would see $5.4 million for both in 2011-2012 as reasonable, although privacy has been skinny on resources for years and won't get any big boost out of this.

The comparison with the two offices that currently combine these functions elsewhere are Office of Australian Information Commissioner $12.6 million, and Queensland Information Commissioner $5.9 million

The "intermediate results" the commission is working towards, like last year, raise some interesting challenges for measurement:
This  service group contributes to protection and advocacy of rights in the community, and an open and accountable government, by working towards a range of intermediate results that include:
▪ privacy rights and rights to access information understood by the public
▪ increased access to information
▪ improved protection of personal information
▪ fewer complaints over conduct of government agencies in releasing information
▪ fewer formal applications for access to information
▪ fewer people seeking review of agency decisions
▪ improved information management by agencies
▪ effective stakeholder relationships.
The published performance information, essentially a few outputs (page 2-64), throws little light on the most important milestones on this journey.

The commission has a staff of 32 (33 in 2011-2012) and in the last 12 months undertook 302 reviews compared to the forecast 100, investigated 60 complaints (100), had 438,000 hits on its website (120,000) and received 419 privacy complaints. Only three agency audits were undertaken as against a forecast 10, with only three planned in the year ahead. Not anywhere near enough to my mind to keep agencies on their toes.

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