SPEAKING OUT: Gary Duffy says information relating to members of the public should be easily accessible and free of charge.
SPEAKING OUT: Gary Duffy says information relating to members of the public should be easily accessible and free of charge. Rob Williams

Corruption fighter hits wall in quest for information

IF RIGHT to Information documents were easier to access by residents and journalists, poor governance and alleged corruption within Ipswich City Council wouldn't have flourished as easily as it did, according to Ipswich resident and mayoral candidate Gary Duffy.

Mr Duffy said when he requested access to council documents that included mentions of his own name between November 1, 2014- June 1, 2016, that he was met with exaggerated estimates of the time and resources needed to meet his request.

At the time, Council's Managed Service Provider estimated the request would take 160 hours to complete, or the equivalent of 4.44 weeks of full-time work. It would cost $95 an hour, bringing the total cost to $15,200.

Mr Duffy disputed the estimate.

"To spend $15,200 to search the email accounts of six people over that period was just an incredible amount," he said.

"I know that if I want to search an email account, I just put the name in and it comes up, it's there and I'd have all those documents and I could just download and dump them in less than an hour."

In response to his dispute, council's Risk and Right to Information department sent a letter to Mr Duffy explaining what would be involved in meeting his request.

"Your RTI Application dated August 8, 2016, sets out 12 requests for documents marked (a) to (i) comprising document types such as emails, text messages, memos, letters, correspondence, applications in relation to six named individuals at Ipswich City Council and Ipswich City Council, its officers, councillors and staff and Queensland Times and its staff," it said.

"In addition to the time/cost associated with searching and collating documentation, council resources would be required to review the documentation in accordance with the RTI Act to ensure the documentation falls within the scope of your RTI Application and redact any information that should not be released, pursuant to the RTI Act.

"I have no basis on which to consider that the initial estimate in relation to council resources required to process your RTI application is incorrect."

He requested similar information from LGAQ and when the documents were delivered, they were heavily redacted.

Mr Duffy believes information relating to members of the public should be easily accessible and free of charge.

"If there was RTI available to residents of Ipswich, corruption would not have flourished here as easily as it did.

"Journalists who were chasing documents all the time would have had access to the proper documents that were needed to keep a government honest."

Mr Duffy said he would strive to improve the process if he was successful at the council election, given that the documents requested wouldn't cause harm to another person.

"After the experience I've been through and seeing that there is no particular reason for them to hide something from me, so why should I hide something from someone else."

A council spokesperson said Mr Duffy was offered the opportunity to consult with the Right to Information Officer regarding his application.

"Council then and now manages its RTI functions in accordance with the Act," they said.

"Our RTI/IP policy and procedures are regularly reviewed amended to reflect better practice and to meet any amendments to legislation. In fact they were reviewed this year.

"The Right to Information Act and Information Privacy Act are the responsibility of the State Government.

"If Mr Duffy believes the requirements of the Acts are inadequate he should discuss his concerns with his local MP."