Skip to content Skip to main navigation

News

Avani Terraces - Greenway
Life is looking up

Open Government: Public Interest Disclosure Act reformed to remove all disclosure

By PantsMan - 1 February 2012 10

As a close watcher of the ACT Government’s ‘Open Government’ window dressing, I was somewhat bemused by the removal of documents from the FOI website that showed repeated warnings about Energy Services Invironmental were ignored.

Indeed, other elements of Katy’s Glasnost appear to be proceeding on a similarly Soviet track.

Despite their own Community Engagement Guidelines stating:

Where possible avoid engagement over the Christmas/January holiday period, or consider an extended consultation period over this time. Consultations that take place during school holidays may also require an extended consultation period.

they dumped the exposure draft of the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2011 on the street on 22 December.

Overall, it appears a concerted attempt to bureaucratically ‘manage away’ any and all complainants through endless ‘reports’ and ‘notifications’.  The Bill does allow for disclosures to be made to journalists, but only after the disclosure has not been investigated, or it has taken more than 6 months to investigate; the implication being that you’ll still get charged with a crime if you speak out during that time.

But here’s the kicker:  the current Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 requires the number of substantiated disclosure be reported annually, and paragraph 11(3) requires that:

(3)   The annual report shall include particulars of remedial action taken by the government agency in relation to—

(a)    each public interest disclosure that was substantiated on investigation by the government agency; and

(b)    any recommendations of the ombudsman or the auditor-general that relate to the government agency.

(Whether or not they actually report this currently is entirely another question.)

Section 40 of the ‘reformed’ Public Interest Disclosure Bill, however, removes any of those pernickity requirements for ACT Government agencies to actually publicly report whether or not disclosures were substantiated and anything they’ve actually done to fix the problems.   Putin would be proud.

Never fear!  The Discussion Paper advises that:

Submissions may be lodged by:

Mail:

Public Interest Disclosure: Consultation

Public Sector Management

Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate

GPO Box 158

Canberra ACT 2601

E-mail:                                  psm@act.gov.au

Further, submissions may be made in person by meeting face-to-face, or over the phone, with the drones in the Public Sector Management Branch of CMD. Appointments may be made between 20 February and 9 March 2012 by phoning 02 6205 0358.

Submissions close on 26 March 2012.

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
10 Responses to
Open Government: Public Interest Disclosure Act reformed to remove all disclosure
housebound 1:05 pm 21 Mar 12

The real question is where do the Greens and Liberals stand on this?

In the long run, it doesn’t matter how obviously bad the Bill is if the Greens roll over and support it, and the Libs support/oppose depending on their mood.

PantsMan 12:18 pm 21 Mar 12

Just a reminder Rioters. Only five days left to get your submission in on whether ‘Open Government’ should actually include any openness.

PantsMan 1:44 pm 03 Feb 12

Thanks again ACTPS_COMMS.

I had a look at the 2010-11 ACT Treasury Annual Report as a comparator and it just says:

One disclosure relating to 2008–09 was completed in December 2010.

Aside from it taking more than one and a half years, were do I go to find out whether it was substantiated, and what, if any, remedial action has been taken?

See my point?

ACTPS_Comms 1:06 pm 03 Feb 12

Sorry make that Annual Reports (Government Agencies) Act 2004 (Section 8) – para 4

ACTPS_Comms 1:03 pm 03 Feb 12

Could you point out one time in the last five years that this has actually been reported in an ACT Government Annual Report?

Section C3 of Agency Annual Reports provides the information sought. See for example, CMD 2010-11 Volume 1 at page 62.

Under your proposed regime, what stops the Chief Minister directing that this no longer be reported, given there will be no legislative basis or requirement for doing so?

As outlined above, the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) Act 2004 (Section 8) requires consultation with the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on the content of the Annual Report Directions.

PantsMan you raise some good points and these will be taken into account as part of the consultation process.

In relation to publication of submissions made, the Consultation Guide states “All submissions (including summaries of submissions made in person) will be made publicly available”. (see http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/ca/db_43764/current/pdf/db_43764.pdf )

PantsMan 10:21 am 03 Feb 12

Thanks ACTPS Comms.

As you are no doubt aware, the Chief Minister’s Annual Report Directions also require the following:

C.3 Public Interest Disclosure
Basis of Requirement:
• Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994
Report descriptor:
Under Section 11 of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 (PID Act) all agencies with reporting requirements must report on their procedures in place to facilitate the making of disclosures as well as the disclosures they receive and handle.

Each report should include:
1. A description of the procedures maintained by the agency to receive and handle disclosures during the reporting year.
2. Statistics relating to the reporting year:
? number and type of disclosure received (type of disclosure refers to the conduct as described in section 4(2) of the PID Act);
? number of disclosures investigated;
? number of disclosures referred by other agencies;
? details of disclosures that were referred elsewhere, including:
• the total number referred;
• the identity of the other agency;
• the number and type of disclosures referred to each agency.
? the number of disclosures on which the agency declined to act under section 17 of the PID Act; and
? [b]the number of disclosures substantiated by investigation;
3. Details of remedial action on each substantiated disclosure.[/b]
4. Details of remedial action taken on and/or for Ombudsman recommendations.
Contact: Strategic HR, Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate Ph 620 76502.

Two points.

Could you point out one time in the last five years that this has actually been reported in an ACT Government Annual Report?

Under your proposed regime, what stops the Chief Minister directing that this no longer be reported, given there will be no legislative basis or requirement for doing so?

ACTPS_Comms 8:39 am 03 Feb 12

The post regarding the draft Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2011 requires some clarification. We were conscious of the community engagement guideline requirements when releasing the bill for consultation, and in keeping with those guidelines, deliberately extended the response date to the end of March given the time at which the draft bill was ready for release.

The reporting requirements highlighted remain in place under the Chief Minister’s Annual Report Directions (http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/ni/2011-311/default.asp). Those Directions set out the requirements for Annual Reports and are developed in consultation with the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on an annual basis.

The Directions provide (Section B2 page 22):

“The agency must report on the most significant developments in scrutiny, both internal and external of the agency in 2010-2011, and the agency’s response, including particulars of ACT Auditor General and ACT Ombudsman reports.
This schedule should indicate, for each report:
• the name of the Inquiry/Report, the report number and title, and the date the report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly;
• details of the recommendations of the Inquiry/Report that have been accepted, either in whole or in part, by the Government; and
• a summary of action to date, either completed or in progress (including milestones completed), in implementing these recommendations”.

Those directions also include requirements in relation to public interest disclosures (Section C3 page 26) including in relation to the number of disclosures substantiated by investigation and the provision of information on remedial action taken.

The Discussion Paper is available at http://www.communityengagement.act.gov.au/engagements/cmd/current/public_interest_disclosure_discussion_paper

The draft Bill is available at http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/ed/db_43761/default.asp

The ACT Government is committed to open government and will continue to make information available to enable community feedback.

I-filed 9:44 pm 02 Feb 12

Thanks for this …. will (non-confidential) submissions be publicly available as per the norm?

PantsMan 7:27 pm 02 Feb 12

Myles Peterson said :

Cheers for this

Thanks Myles! I thought my rigorous investigations would have attracted at least one comment, however, this is TheRiot-Act and one cannot compete with bogans caught drink-driving, or crap parking in Belco.

I presume you are the Myles Peterson of Department of Health speech writing fame?

Myles Peterson 6:12 pm 02 Feb 12

Cheers for this

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site