Australia: Annual reports and the Government Information Public Access Act

Last Updated: 14 September 2010
Article by Ashley Tsacalos and Kimberley Rose

On 28 August 2010, two new regulations commenced which affect the annual reporting obligations of government departments and statutory bodies in New South Wales:

  • The Annual Reports (Departments) Regulations 2010 (NSW) (Department Regulations), made under the Annual Reports (Departments) Act 1985, and which have replaced and repealed the Annual Reports (Departments) Regulations 2005.
  • The Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Regulations 2010 (NSW) (Statutory Bodies Regulations), made under the Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Act 1984, and which have replaced and repealed the Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Regulations 2005.

Both the Department Regulations and the Statutory Bodies Regulations remove or modify several of the pre-existing reporting requirements contained in regulations made in 2005. Some of the key changes include:

  • A requirement that departments and statutory bodies provide Parliament with an electronic copy of an annual report that is tabled in Parliament (as recommended by the Public Bodies Review Committee in its Report on an Inquiry into Web-Based Annual Reporting in the NSW Public Sector of September 2008).
  • Removal of the requirement for departments and statutory bodies to provide copies of annual reports to the New South Wales Government Information Service.
  • Removal of the requirements for departments to list major assets (other than land holdings) and major acquisitions in the reporting year, and to include copies of any amendments to codes of conduct prepared by departments for its officers and employees.
  • Introducing new triennial reporting requirements for small departments and small statutory bodies (as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury) in relation to disability plans and occupational health and safety.
  • Under the Statutory Bodies Regulations, a requirement that universities report on the performance and numbers of its senior executive staff.

Section 6 of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act) provides for the mandatory proactive release of certain government information, described as "open access information", unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information. Open access information is to be made publicly available free of charge on an agency's website and in any other way the agency considers appropriate. Under section 18 of the GIPA Act, open access information includes information about the agency contained in any document tabled in Parliament by or on behalf of the agency, other than any document tabled by order of either House of Parliament. As required under the Annual Reports (Departments) Act 1985 and the Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Act 1984, annual reports are required to be tabled in Parliament and therefore fall within the definition of open access information in section 18 of the GIPA Act. Agencies and statutory bodies (which are subject to the obligations of the GIPA Act as they fall within the definition of "agency" and/or "public authority" in that Act) should therefore ensure that their annual reports are made publically available free of charge on their website, in order to comply with the mandatory proactive release requirements under the GIPA Act.

Section 125 of the GIPA Act contains the annual reporting requirements for agencies in relation to their obligations under the GIPA Act. Section 125(1) provides that each agency must, within 4 months after the end of each reporting year, prepare an annual report on the agency's obligations under the GIPA Act for submission to the Minister responsible for the agency. A copy of the report is also to be provided to the Information Commissioner. Section 125(4) provides that this information must be tabled in each House of Parliament unless it is included in an annual report prepared for the purposes of the Annual Reports (Departments) Act 1985 or the Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Act 1984.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Ashley Tsacalos
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