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Monday, September 03, 2012

Queensland OIC performance sets the standard

The Office of Information Commissioner Queensland Annual Report 2011-2012 outlines another year of good results. Information commissioners around the country are struggling with demand, so the OIC performance in taking in 404 review applications and finalising 457 against a target of 300 was impressive. Timeliness suffered as a result of an increase in demand and a focus on processing a backlog of older files. Still, the median number of calendar days for an external review to be finalised was 90 days, equal to the performance target. As at 30 June 2012, two reviews more than 12 months old remained open (1.8% of open reviews at the end of the reporting period). The percentage of reviews finalised informally was 88% and the number of applications on hand at the end of the financial year reduced from 168 to 113. The OIC made 56 written decisions, 39 under the Right to information Act and 17 under the Information Privacy Act.

There aren't too many up for this, so full credit: surveys showed 71% of applicants were satisfied overall with the conduct of their review application and 98% of agencies were satisfied with the review service provided.

Information Commissioner Kinross signed off the report before leaving on 9 August and she and the staff (34) deserve credit for a job well done. Two big picture observations from her introductory remarks get a 'hear, hear' here:
The Independent FOI Review Panel also found that one of the key barriers to successful FOI implementation was the closed culture of the public sector. The culture of the public sector remains a key challenge. A compliance approach where open government performance measures are included in chief executive officer and senior executive staff contracts is necessary if the culture is to be changed over time.
OIC has a commitment to look for answers to the questions of how public sector agencies can achieve better transparency. There is objective evidence that links transparency with improved public sector productivity, performance, policy implementation, compliance and enforcement outcomes, innovation, and integrity. The fact that it has not yet emerged as a distinct field in public administration speaks to the strength of the culture of secrecy and the risk adverse nature of the public sector. By packaging this evidence for executives, and developing resources and tools for it, we hope public sector managers will come to view transparency as a necessary part of their tool kit, rather than something to be avoided. There is no doubt that public sector information can be used strategically to assist executives achieve the goals of effectiveness, efficiency, economy and integrity in all aspects of government business. To this effect we have launched the Transparency Series of occasional papers in partnership with ANZSOG.
On the privacy side of the shop, two complaints were on hand at the beginning of the 2011–12 financial year and 61 complaints were received during the year. Fifty-seven were finalised during the year. OIC again exceeded its target of finalising complaints within 90 days, achieving a median time to finalise a complaint of four days(!!). The number of complaints received almost doubled compared to the 2010–11 financial year.

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