The Beagle Editor, As always it is of interest to look over our northern border and learn of similar issues your community is having with its Council. From your pages we are hearing that there have been numerous GIPA requests that must raise the question of why Council's are not as forthcoming with public information in the public interest as one might expect. Your readers might find our latest media release of interest. on openness & transparency …
The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) welcomed the request made by Cr Bain at council’s ordinary meeting of March 14th, 2018 for the general manager to provide a report on the cost of processing GIPA Applications made by the association over the past 18 months, to council’s next meeting.
While the BVSRRA would like to believe that Cr Bain’s request was born out of a desire to understand why ratepayers would even need to make GIPA Applications to obtain information from council, its experience unfortunately suggests that its real purpose is to provide council’s unaccountable bureaucrats with yet another staged opportunity to impugn the association & its activities, while yet again seeking to paint itself as the innocent victim struggling to deal with the association’s relentless demands with its seriously limited resources.
To make it clear, the BVSRRA only pursues GIPA Applications where council has ignored requests or has failed to make information readily available which the association believes should be freely available to all residents & ratepayers who support the need for openness & transparency, as an essential precursor to ensuring that public officials can be held accountable for their actions.
And, for the benefit of everyone, the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) was established to provide an open and transparent process for giving the public access to information from New South Wales (NSW) public sector agencies and to encourage the proactive public release of government information (see full details here).
Notwithstanding the GIPA Act, the BVSRRA has found through its experience that council routinely attempts to frustrate the public’s right to know by seeking to limit or conceal information that it should otherwise be entitled to know, so it can be informed on the behaviour & performance of government.
In asking council’s general manager for an update on the association’s GIPA Applications over the past 18 months, Cr Bain has – probably unintentionally - provided an opportunity for the association to remind residents & ratepayers of the lengths that council will go to limit openness & transparency & avoid accountability for its actions.
The BVSRRA also noted that Cr Bain’s request was endorsed by council’s long-standing champion of openness & transparency, the Deputy Mayor, Cr Seckold, with the epithet “Well done”.
The full text of this Media Release is available here …
Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association