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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The strange case of the ombudsman's annual report that wasn't

John Wood's account in The Canberra Times about the Freedom of Information request for the annual report completed by Allan Asher before his resignation as Ombudsman last year but not tabled in parliament deserves a wide audience, particularly the darting and weaving over the application before the Australian Information Commission ruled it must be released.

So would the record of any back and forward between the office of the Ombudsman and the minister publicly involved in his departure  Gary Gray, concerning the decision to ditch Asher's version and table that of acting ombudsman, Alison Larkins. 

In 28 years or so I imagine.

Wood with an FOI involvement stretching way back to the seventies and as a former Deputy Ombudsman had the wood on the office on this one, so to speak.

(Update: Markus Mannheim elsewhere in the Times raises other issues and reports this response from the minister:
Special Minister of State Gary Gray has denied he intervened to prevent the publication of Mr Asher's report. Mr Asher alleged this week the minister had interfered with the report, but Mr Gray's office said the claim was ''completely baseless''. ''It would be highly inappropriate for the government to seek to influence the independent office of the Ombudsman,'' the minister's spokesman said. ''At no time did minister Gray or his office seek to alter or delay the ombudsman's annual report. Indeed, the only version provided to the minister's office was [Ms Larkins's] final report, and this was submitted in compliance with statutory requirements.'' Mr Gray's office also said if Mr Asher had evidence of corruption in the public service, it was ''vitally important that he refer it to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible''.
There is more in The Public Sector Informant, these days available on-line-well done Markus in chewing the editor's ear.

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