‘ Secretive’ council opens up
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.