Media release: Qld public sector agencies called to go beyond minimum reporting requirements to build greater trust in government
The latest report from the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) titled Minimum reporting requirements: Personal interests, gifts and benefits, overseas travel was tabled in Queensland Parliament on 18 June 2021.
The OIC examined what information ministers, Queensland Government departments and executives, local governments and councillors must disclose about their personal interests, gifts and benefits, and overseas travel. These topics were selected because of their high public interest.
Information Commissioner, Rachael Rangihaeata, said the report provides an overall snapshot of minimum reporting requirements and identifies opportunities for Queensland public sector agencies to build greater trust and confidence in government.
“This report builds on what the community expects – openness, accountability and transparency with their elected officials, chief executives and employees across all levels of government,” Ms Rangihaeata said.
“People expect that government officials perform their duties in a fair and unbiased way and that their decisions are impartial and in the public interest. The community is entitled to have confidence in their integrity and honesty.
“But agencies should go beyond compliance with various Acts, regulations or policies, and proactively disclose more information or make it easier to find on their websites. When the community has access to more information, it can better engage with government agencies, which can improve decision making and service delivery.
“To effectively support open and transparent government, the published information should be easy to access, meaningful and timely. The Right to Information Act 2009 requires Queensland public sector agencies to administratively release information unless there is a good reason not to.
“The OIC wanted to raise awareness of the current state of play in Queensland with this report, so the public sector could stand in the shoes of the community and ask what it could improve when reporting on personal interests, gifts and benefits, and overseas travel. Proactive disclosure of the right information at the right time is critical to trust and confidence.”
Ms Rangihaeata said overall the Queensland minimum reporting requirements about personal interests, gifts and benefits and overseas travel generally support open and transparent government. But they were not always consistent across different tiers of government and public sector agencies could adopt some of the good practices in other jurisdictions.
Ms Rangihaeata also said some opportunities for improvement identified in the report can be made easily while others will require legislative change.
“I encourage agencies to look at their current reporting practices and proactively release more information in the name of building greater trust and transparency.
“If agencies improve their practices and are more open and transparent, it would reduce the number of information access applications under the Right to Information Act 2009, and the associated cost and delay for the community in receiving the information.”