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Monday, October 19, 2015

Barbeque stopper: NSW government contracting itself out of information access law?

Jacob Saulwick's report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday was a barbeque stopper where I was over the weekend and I don't expect that's just because I move in narrow circles:
The largest transport project in the country could be shielded from public scrutiny after the government transferred control of the $15.4 billion WestConnex motorway to a "private corporation". The transfer means information about the Sydney Motorway Corporation, which is now in charge of building the motorway, cannot be captured by freedom of information requests.......When Fairfax Media requested, using the Government Information (Public Access) Act (GIPA), the salary and bonus details of top WestConnex representatives, Roads and Maritime Services responded, in part: "Sydney Motorway Corporation Pty Ltd is a private corporation and not a Government agency."
Saulwick went on to mention that a spokeswoman for the SMC said a 2014-15 financial report would be submitted to ASIC by the end of October, which would disclose information relating to key management compensation. The spokeswoman also said that because the corporation is delivering and financing the road on behalf of RMS, RMS "will continue to hold information relating to WestConnex and remains subject to GIPA".

But could it be true, friends asked, that the government could in effect contract out to a wholly owned government private company control of a government funded $15 billion project and avoid the standard government transparency and accountability provided by freedom of information?

The answer is yes it could. On the other hand, it doesn't have to be.

More later when I have the time.

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