Information Publication Scheme Compliance Program
The Information Publication Scheme
Part 2 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) establishes an Information Publication Scheme (IPS) for Australian Government agencies subject to the Act. The IPS commences on 1 May 2011 and requires agencies to publish a broad range of information on their websites, and to make it available for downloading where possible. The aim of the IPS is to transform the freedom of information framework from one that responds to individual document requests, to one that also requires agencies to take a proactive approach to publishing information.
Review of IPS compliance
Every agency is required to complete a review of its IPS compliance before 1 May 2016 (ss 8F(a) and 9(1)). A key issue in the review will be whether agencies have moved beyond compliance with the mandatory publication requirements in the FOI Act to a greater emphasis on voluntary publication of additional information. An agency must undertake its review of compliance in conjunction with the OAIC.
The OAIC’s role in the IPS compliance program
The Australian Information Commissioner has three roles:
- Assist agencies to identify and prepare information for publication under the IPS
- Review the operation of the IPS in each agency in conjunction with the agency
- Monitor, investigate and report on the operation of the IPS (s 8F).
The OAIC’s approach
The OAIC recognises that IPS compliance poses a large challenge for many agencies. It is a new scheme that imposes resource demands on agencies both in establishing and in managing IPS publication. The success of the IPS depends heavily on agency commitment and willingness over time to publish more information under the IPS. The pressure upon agencies will vary according to the size and functions of agencies. The OAIC is committed to working with all agencies to assist them to meet their IPS obligations and to fulfil the proactive disclosure objectives of the FOI Act.
What will the OAIC monitor?
The OAIC will monitor five key elements of agency IPS compliance:
1 Agency plan
Has the agency published a comprehensive plan for its IPS compliance?
2 Governance and administration
Does the agency have appropriate governance mechanisms in place to meet its IPS obligations, including an information management framework?
3 IPS document holdings
Has the agency reviewed its document holdings to decide information that must be published under s 8(2) and information that can be published under s 8(4)? Is the agency IPS entry accurate, up-to-date and complete?
4 IPS information architecture
Does the agency have a publication framework in place and has it taken the necessary steps to ensure that information in its IPS entry is easily discoverable and accessible to the Australian community?
5 Agency compliance review
Does the agency have appropriate processes, systems and resources in place to monitor and review its IPS compliance and to make necessary improvement in the agency’s IPS implementation?
What should agencies do?
The OAIC’s IPS compliance program aims to support a pro-disclosure culture within agencies based on a commitment to self-assessment and continual improvement. The compliance program has three elements.
- Agency self-assessment checklist – A self-assessment checklist for agencies has been developed and is available on the OAIC website www.oaic.gov.au. Agencies are encouraged to use this checklist to assess whether they are meeting IPS requirements. By using the checklist agencies can identify any gaps in IPS compliance that may need to be addressed over the five year review period. The OAIC will not require agencies to provide feedback from this self-assessment activity.
- Agency IPS surveys – The OAIC intends to conduct two compliance surveys of all agencies over the five year period up to 2016. The surveys will collect compliance information from each agency at two separate times over the five years. Agencies can use the first survey results together with their self-assessment to improve IPS performance prior to the second survey.
- IPS checks – The OAIC will conduct a series of desktop reviews to assess the extent to which selected agencies are complying with the IPS legislative requirements. The reviews will focus on how the public might perceive the accessibility and comprehensiveness of information published under the IPS. The OAIC will provide feedback to individual agencies and identify any systemic issues that inhibit best practice performance by agencies.
The data gathered from the surveys and checks will enable the OAIC to undertake and report on a comparative analysis of IPS compliance across government The OAIC will contact agencies to provide details of when the Surveys and Checks will take place. The self-assessment activity is an excellent preparatory tool and agencies are strongly encouraged to undertake this activity as early as possible.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org