Commencement of Information Publication Scheme Compliance Activities:
IPS Survey 2012 and the Desktop Review Program
I am writing to all Australian Government agencies that are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) with information about forthcoming work to assess agency compliance with the Information Publication Scheme (IPS).
The IPS commenced operation on 1 May 2011. Agencies are required to publish a range of documents and information on their websites, and are encouraged to publish additional information over and above that required by the FOI Act. The IPS is a central element of the FOI reform objective to drive a cultural shift towards more proactive release and publication of government information.
Section 9 of the FOI Act requires agencies to complete a review of the operation of the IPS within their agency, within five years of the commencement of the IPS. This must be done in conjunction with my office. In May 2011, I released a range of resources to assist agencies to meet the requirements of the IPS, including an Agency Self-Assessment Checklist. My office will conduct two other projects to assess IPS compliance: an IPS Survey of Australian Government Agencies, to be conducted twice, in 2012 and 2014; and a Desktop Review Program of all agencies to be undertaken between 2012-2016.
IPS Survey 2012
My Office will conduct two compliance surveys of all agencies subject to the FOI Act over the five year period up until 1 May 2016. The first survey – a benchmarking survey – is scheduled to commence in mid-April 2012. The second survey – a comparative survey – is expected to occur in early 2014.
The first survey will be divided into two parts. The first part will assess compliance with the five key IPS compliance criteria that are set out in the FOI Guidelines (at para 13.134) and that are further explained at: http://www.oaic.gov.au/publications/agency_resources/ips_compliance_program.html
The second part of the survey contains questions that aim to build a picture of the public sector information held and published by Australian Government agencies. The scope and importance of this analysis was explained in an Issues paper my office published in November last year, Understanding the value of public sector information in Australia.
Compliance with the IPS is an ongoing statutory obligation for agencies. The FOI Act s 8(4) also encourages agencies to publish additional information, in the manner to be examined in second part of the benchmarking survey.
Participation in the benchmarking and comparative IPS surveys will assist agencies to meet their obligations under the FOI Act. Agencies will be encouraged to use the survey results to complement other compliance review activities undertaken in-house to improve their IPS compliance. I anticipate all agencies will be contacted to undertake the first survey from Monday 30 April 2012.
ORIMA Research Pty Ltd has been engaged to conduct this online survey. The survey will assess IPS compliance by looking at a number of elements, including the culture of the agency, its governance arrangements and information management framework. In some agencies the FOI Contact officer may be best placed to complete the survey, however in other cases you may wish to give consideration as to who is best placed in your agency to undertake the survey.
ORIMA Research Pty Ltd will send an email with a link to the online survey to a Contact Officer within your agency, who will be the point of contact for the survey. The OAIC has compiled a list of relevant contacts for this purpose.
Desktop Review Program
The Desktop Review Program will commence on 1 May 2012, and is expected to run on an ongoing basis until 2016. It is anticipated that around 250 agency websites will be selected and inspected (at least once) by my office during this period. A comprehensive, standardised assessment instrument known as the Desktop Review Tool will be used to conduct the review of agency websites.
This compliance activity will focus on how well agencies subject to the FOI Act meet their IPS obligations by providing information and documents to the public through the agency website. My office will assess an agency website’s compliance with both the legislative IPS requirements (including Disclosure Log compliance), as well as the recommendations contained in Part 13 of the Guidelines that I have issued under s 93A of the FOI Act.
After this desktop review of your agency website is conducted, my office will provide you with a short summary report outlining the findings. This will provide the opportunity for agencies to review their IPS and Disclosure Log performance and address any areas or gaps identified by my office.
For further information
If you or your staff have any queries in relation to how or when the IPS survey will be conducted you may contact Ms Monica O'Neill from Orima Research Pty Ltd directly on (02) 6175 1000 or email@example.com.
If you have any general questions in relation to the compliance activities undertaken by my office please contact Mr D’Arcy Jackson, Deputy Director, Compliance on (02) 9284 9848 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to thank you in advance for your co-operation and assistance with these important compliance activities.
Prof John McMillan
Australian Information Commissioner
10 April 2012