The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA) will replace the existing Freedom of Information Act 1989 when it comes into force on 1 July 2010.
The object of GIPA is to open government information to the public by:
- Authorising and encouraging the proactive release of government information by agencies;
- Giving members of the public an enforceable right to access government information; and
- Providing that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
According to Office of Information Commissioner, the intent of GIPA is to establish “a new model of openness under which formal applications for access to information should be a ‘last resort’”. GIPA authorises and encourages the release of information proactively, limited only by legitimate public interest considerations.
GIPA has wide reach, not only applying to government departments but also to:
- Public offices and public authorities such as State-owned corporations;
- Local and county councils; and
- Ministers and their personal staff.
Under GIPA, ‘mandatory release’ information must be published on an agency’s web site. This includes:
- Policy documents;
- A publication guide;
- A disclosure log of formal access applications;
- A register of government contracts;
- An agency’s record of open access information that it does not make publicly available on the basis of an overriding public interest against disclosure; and
- Information about the agency contained in any document tabled in Parliament by or on behalf of the agency (other than any document tabled by order of either House of Parliament).
GIPA will therefore have significant impacts for NSW suppliers in two ways:
- It mandates the publication of contracts over $150,000 and in so doing also introduces some new categories of information that must be disclosed about contracts;
- It will provide significant pressure on many agencies to determine the nature of the electronic content management system required to support the requirement to publish information such as their policy documents on agency web sites.
In addition, the requirement to publish policy documents is likely to necessitate that Super Departments examine the policy documents of their comprising agencies and rationalise redundant and inconsistent policies that may exist before they are published.
Part 2: Mandating the publication of contracts is coming next week.