A report on the decision of the office of Gladys Bregiclian to shred documents related to a grant scandal was forwarded to the Independent Anti-Corruption Committee by a dog keeping information.
“I have decided to forward the report to ICAC,” NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tide wrote in a report produced this month in response to a complaint by NSW Labor Parliament Greg Warren.
However, Ms. Todd wrote that she did not find the act violating the Public Access to Information Act serious or systematic.
“I have not found any negative findings regarding the conduct of the NSW Premier Office,” she wrote.
The fact that the policy documents pertaining to the Strong Communities Foundation were transmitted through a shredder and deleted electronically was shocking when it was unveiled last year to a parliamentary committee investigating the grant program.
Prime Minister Sarah Lau’s senior policy adviser told the Public Liability Committee that the documents had been disposed of as part of “normal record-keeping procedures.”
When asked exactly how he got rid of them, Lau responded: “Most likely they were shredded.”
“The GIPA Act explicitly addresses the public interest in disclosing information that could reasonably have been guaranteed to effectively control public spending expenditures,” Ms. Tied wrote.
“The amount of funds allocated through this program, or significant significance and improvement of government grant programs, is the responsibility of the ICAC Committee.”
The documents represented a crucial link in the decision-making process around a $ 252 million round of grants that reached almost exclusively the Coalition chairs.
The electronic copies were recovered late last year, and they revealed that the prime minister’s team had directly decided which projects would be funded under the stronger community fund’s grant program, a more practical level of involvement than Mrs Brajklian and her office had previously given.
The documents also included references to other ministers and liberal members involved in order to direct funding to councils in their constituents.
The Information Commissioner wrote in the report that she was unhappy that there was room for Mr Warren’s complaints about systematic or serious breaches of the GIPA Act.
However, she noted that the guide used by the ministerial staff was not clear enough to instruct the staff on how to act in accordance with the GIPA action.
“Significantly, the GIPA Act creates the right to access government information and imposes mandatory disclosure requirements on agencies,” Ms. Tied wrote.
“The absence of any reference to these rights and obligations in the directory of manuals or in the files attached to it, especially in the chapter dealing with record keeping, constitutes a significant risk to the right of access to information held in ministerial offices,” Ms. Tied wrote.
Following the publication of the documents, Ms. Bergiklian admitted that the plan amounted to a pork barrel and defending the practice as usual.
“If the accusation is that the government prefers certain areas, it is the accusation that is being worn,” the prime minister said in responses that surprised even some of its inner circle.
“It’s not an illegal practice. Unfortunately it happens occasionally, with every government.”
The committee is still in the process of working on exactly how the funds were allocated after their examination did not take place except in documentary terms and the Prime Minister twice refused to testify.
Deputy Prime Minister John Brillero, who was responsible for allocating $ 61.3 million, or a quarter of the funds, agreed to anticipate the investigation and is expected to do so on February 8.
NSW police have previously ruled out an investigation into the crushing incident. The State Archives and Records Authority has announced that it will open an investigation into the matter in November last year.
Contact the Prime Minister’s Office for a response.