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Monday, June 20, 2011

NSW Premier ticking some of many available boxes on integrity

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell on Friday outlined Measures to restore integrity to Government by "strengthening the powers of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), restoring integrity to government advertising, and introducing new protections for whistleblowers," perhaps to get over the line with some "first 100 days" commitments. There is still plenty to do on the "restore integrity" front-here are some of the things on integrity Mr O'Farrell said were important before the election.

In now foreshadowing legislation for whistleblower changes, the Premier made no mention of the substantial amendments, most to commence on 1 July, that were passed late last year under the Labor Government, the effect of which are summarised on the Ombudsman's website. While there was a good point to be made about the years it took Labor to act in 2010 on some ICAC, parliamentary committee and other recommendations for change that go back a long way, the Premier was stretching it just a little in claiming “We are doing more to protect whistleblowers in our first 100 days than Labor did in 16 years."

The proposed changes that the Premier said came from the Ombudsman will
  • require public authorities to report back to those making disclosures within 45 days;
  • require each public authority to have a designated officer to receive information from whistleblowers; and
  • require public authorities to report the number of disclosures made by whistleblowers each quarter
This post last October provides some of the legislative history of the Public Interest Disclosures (Amendment) Act. 

One of the provisions, unique in Australia as far as I can tell, is that "government information contravention", defined as "conduct of a kind that constitutes a failure to exercise functions in accordance with any provision of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009", has been added to corrupt conduct, maladministration, and serious and substantial waste as a subject of a protected disclosure.

1 comment:

  1. Denys Clarke10:07 pm

    Performance Assessment of The General Manager of Blacktown City Council 2-2-2011

    On 7 November 2010, under the GIPA Act 2009, I made this Formal Access Application :-

    “ (Dr) Linda Tucker (Manager, Casework and Compliance) from The OIC has confirmed (at an OIC public meeting in Blacktown) that the performance of The General Manager of a Council and the methodology/process by which Councillors monitor and assess it, prior to presenting a report to the community through Council, is in the public interest.

    My email to all members of “The Elected Council” on 28 July 2009 and the ADT Decision 233 on 30 September 2010 (particularly items 23, 24, 25) are relevant.

    In the public interest, I require a copy of Report No AD 300030 and attachments (if any)”

    Council acknowledged this application on 15 November 2010 stating, inter alia, that “it is believed that the information you seek is of interest to the general public”.

    On 7 December 2010, Council provided the following decision:-

    “I have decided, under s 58(1) (a) of the GIPA Act to provide a copy of Report AD 300030. However I have redacted the personal information concerning Mr Moore.

    In this regard, personal information has been redacted in the covering report; and attachments 1 and 3 of the Report have been withheld due to the extent of personal information.

    However, in lieu of Attachment 1 I have provided a Pro Forma of The General Manager’s Performance Agreement so that you are aware of the criteria he is assessed against”.

    On 7 January 2011 I requested the OIC to review this decision which I believe is clearly unsatisfactory. This request for review is detailed in the attachment to this email.

    The OIC replied on 11 January 2011 “the OIC currently has a significant number of applications on-hand and, as such, we are not yet in a position to progress your issue further.

    A member of the OIC will be in touch with you when your issue is ready to be progressed.”

    As at today, 30/6/11, although an officer of OIC has been in touch a few times, always apologising for delay and promising a draft decision "soon", all that has happened is confirmation that justice delayed is justice denied. It is time for the next review of The GM.

    I will send you complete relevant information by email attachments. Denys Clarke