‘ Se­cre­tive’ coun­cil opens up

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CLARE ARM­STRONG

TOWNSVILLE City Coun­cil has taken ma­jor steps to im­prove open and trans­par­ent ac­cess to per­sonal in­for­ma­tion col­lected about res­i­dents in a se­ries of re­forms.

The coun­cil has im­ple­mented 13 of the 24 rec­om­men­da­tions handed down by the Of­fice of the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner ( OIC) in March and says the re­main­ing 11 rec­om­men­da­tions are “on track” to be im­ple­mented by Fe­bru­ary 2019.

The scathing OIC au­dit re­vealed a cul­ture of op­er­a­tional se­crecy, staff in­ep­ti­tude and poor record- keep­ing in­side the coun­cil.

Au­di­tors were asked to as­sess the coun­cil’s com­pli­ance with the Right to In­for­ma­tion ( RTI) and In­for­ma­tion Pri­vacy ( IP) acts fol­low­ing three com­plaints be­tween 2014 and 2016.

They found the coun­cil’s generic col­lec­tion no­tice for col­lat­ing and stor­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing cam­era sur­veil­lance footage, was “mean­ing­less” be­cause it was “too broad”. The au­dit found 53 per cent of files did not have “suf­fi­cient records” of ac­tions taken to process RTI ap­pli­ca­tions from mem­bers of the pub­lic and stake­hold­ers.

The fail­ings were linked to a lack of staff train­ing.

Gov­er­nance and Fi­nance Com­mit­tee chair­woman Ver­ena Coombe said the coun­cil was “to­tally com­mit­ted” to mak­ing its op­er­a­tion more open and trans­par­ent.

“The is­sues high­lighted in the OIC re­port were the his­tor­i­cal poor prac­tices – some dat­ing back sev­eral years – that coun­cil has been cor­rect­ing through its re­struc­ture and trans­for­ma­tion process,” she said.

“More than half of the OIC rec­om­men­da­tions have been fully im­ple­mented and the rest will be com­pleted by Fe­bru­ary next year.”

Cr Coombe said the coun­cil had em­barked on a “ma­jor re­struc­ture” to im­prove open­ness and trans­parency.

The OIC is ex­pected to con­duct a fol­low- up au­dit within two years.

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