The Beagle Editor, There are many parallels between our two Councils in how they conduct their affairs and we read with interest that your Council has shown on several occasions to be defiant of providing information requested under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) Act. We are aware that there are currently requests for information from Council and State Departments and look forward to learning if those requests are forthcoming. Your readers in the BVSC region might be interested in our latest media release: a law unto itself …
Once again Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) has thumbed its nose at its legal obligations by refusing to provide information in accordance with the requirements of the GIPA Act.
According to the NSW Government, the objective of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW), known as the GIPA Act is
“to make government information more accessible to the public by requiring government agencies to make certain sorts of information freely available; encouraging government agencies to release as much other information as possible; giving the public an enforceable right to make access applications for government information; and restricting access to information only when there is an overriding public interest against disclosure”.
Unfortunately, Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) treats the requirements of the GIPA Act with the same contempt that it does anything that might inconvenience its determination to do whatever it likes, even if it means ignoring its own operating policies.
In October, 2017, the BVSRRA lodged a GIPA Application with BVSC, requesting it to provide
“…a summary of all code of conduct complaints submitted to council over the past five (5) financial years, including
the number of complaints made against councillors each year & the number of complaints upheld, rejected or withdrawn;
number of complaints made against council employees each year & the number of complaints upheld, rejected or withdrawn”
BVSC subsequently refused to provide the requested information on the basis that it provided the information to the Office of Local Government (OLG) each year & it was available from them. The BVSRRA contacted the OLG & confirmed that the information provided by BVSC did not include that requested in its GIPA Application.
The BVSRRA then contacted the Information & Privacy Commission (IPC) requesting a review of BVSC’s decision in respect of its GIPA Application.
This week the IPC completed its review of BVSC’s decision, finding that the information requested by the BVSRRA was not available from the OLG, as claimed by BVSC, & recommending that council reconsider the association’s request.
As mentioned earlier, BVSC not only acts as a law unto itself in refusing to meet its legal obligations, but it also ignores its own policies & procedures, as highlighted by the BVSRRA in its opinion piece “on complaints management”.
The BVSRRA is of the view that BVSC management is entirely unaccountable & that in failing to address that situation, the elected council is continuing to fail in its duty to the shire’s residents & ratepayers.
Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association