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Agency reveals high cost of trying to stop government from keeping a secret

News

The agency charged with ensuring the Palaszczuk Government keeps as few secrets as possible has complained of being stonewalled by bureaucrats but has also hit out at “unreasonable behaviour” by some demanding access to information.

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Information Commissioner Rachael Rangihaeata has revealed her office is suffering burn out and confronting delays from government departments in responding to reviews of their refusal to comply with Right to Information requests.

Despite finalising a “record number” of such reviews, she said delays remained a problem for her office.

Rangihaeata is responsible for ensuring government departments have a pro-active approach to releasing information they hold and reviewing decisions to refuse applications for documents.

In her annual report to state parliament, the commissioner said the work of her office was important to improving trust in government through ensuring transparency and accountability.

However, she identified “increasing complexity, unreasonable behaviour and delays from parties to a review” as major challenges.

The report revealed that nearly 50 per cent of people who had had dealings with the office were dissatisfied with the way their request was treated.

The commissioner has also admitted that the office had failed to meet its benchmark of an average 150 days to finalise review of refusal to release information.

While her office had managed to finalise a backlog of complaints from previous years, she said more and more of her staff were suffering burn out.

“While we achieved outstanding results, challenging workload and unreasonable behaviour from some stakeholders have impacted our team,” she said.

“Our small external review team faced a number of challenges, including increasing complexity of matters, delay from agencies in cooperating with the review processes as they too grapple with increasing demand (and) unreasonable and sometimes abusive behaviour from a small but time-consuming cohort of applicants.”

 

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