Review of Information Awareness within Government Released
Queensland’s Office of the Information Commissioner has today released the Results of Desktop Audits 2011–12: Review of publication schemes, disclosure logs and information privacy awareness in departments, local governments, statutory authorities and universities report.
The report reviews the compliance of over 160 Queensland government agencies with the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) and Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) from the perspective of a community member seeking government held information from agency websites.
This report identifies 12 key findings to improve the proactive disclosure of government held information and to better protect individuals’ privacy.
Key findings include:
- Agency websites could be better used to promote administrative access to ensure formal applications are made only as a last resort.
- More than 80% of the RTI pages reviewed were easily accessible.
- Significant information could be added to publication scheme classes relating to priorities, decisions, lists and finances.
- 67% of agencies reviewed had a publication scheme, and these were generally easy to locate and populated with significant and appropriate content.
- Agencies could better populate disclosure logs with information, as currently many are empty or contain few documents.
- Depending upon the agency and sector, rarely more than 50% of material released under the RTI Act was published in disclosure logs.
- Online forms, across all agencies, are of a high level of compliance with the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld).
Desktop audits were conducted by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) in 2011-2012 to examine agency websites from the perspective of a member of the public looking at information available online. The audits assessed the extent to which agency websites complied with the legislative requirements of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act). In 2011-12 OIC also developed and deployed a self-assessment tool to help agencies to understand and assess their own progress in terms of their publication schemes, disclosure logs and Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) 2 and 5.
Agencies have made encouraging progress in developing online publication schemes and disclosure logs and in managing the collection of and access to personal information through the internet and email. Visibility and compliance, particularly in local government, had improved since previous audits were reported in 2011.
Although progress has been made, there is still room for improvement across all the public sector agencies reviewed. A key area for improvement is the extent to which publication schemes and disclosure logs are populated with information. In publication schemes, more significant information could be added to the categories dealing with priorities, decisions, lists and finances (particularly procurement). Information could be provided more prominently that would direct people to administrative access arrangements. Many disclosure logs are empty or contain very few documents, and it appears generally publish a small proportion of documents released. Any increase in publication of information would be an improvement.
Attention to the privacy principles was evident. More work is needed to incorporate the privacy principles into websites. In particular, websites need to provide collection notices2 with email contacts and publish lists of personal information holdings.
Right to information (RTI) and information privacy (IP) will best be upheld by agencies that see the provision of RTI and privacy related information not as a one-off exercise to meet compliance requirements, but as a service that can be continuously enhanced to meet the changing needs of clients and stakeholders. Agencies need to actively maintain and improve their strategies for the pro-active release of information and management of information in accordance with the RTI Act and IP Act.