23/03/2011 - 14:06

Auditor General criticises govt secrecy

23/03/2011 - 14:06

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Minister for Culture and the Arts John Day has come under fire from the state's Auditor General for refusing to provide information to Parliament because it was considered commercial-in-confidence.

Auditor General criticises govt secrecy

Minister for Culture and the Arts John Day has come under fire from the state's Auditor General for refusing to provide information to Parliament because it was considered commercial-in-confidence.

Auditor General Colin Murphy said reasons provided by Mr Day on two occasions to not provide information to Parliament concerning funding of a production of stage play The Graduate were "not reasonable and therefore were not appropriate".

Specifically, Mr Day was asked how much how much funding the Perth Theatre Trust contributed to the production, the anticipated audience numbers presented to justify the subsidy and what previous sponsorship commitments were cancelled/reviewed in order to fund the production.

He was also asked to table the funding contract.

Mr Murphy found that the majority of the information requested was readily available in various departmental documents and could have been provided without breaching any commercial-in-confidence obligations.

He also found the contract could have been provided to Parliament by blacking out any commercially sensitive information.

"Ministers are entitled to rely upon, and must receive, the best quality advice and information that an agency can provide if they are to discharge their obligations to Parliament effectively," Mr Murphy said.

"In this case the Perth Theatre Trust provided the Minister with inadequate and inaccurate advice that contained no analysis or reasoning to support the recommendations.

"Parliament and the community demand a transparent and accountable government and therefore it is important that decision makers and advisors fully understand when a document is 'commercial-in-confidence' before withholding information for this reason."

Mr Murphy said it was the fifth instance since 2007 where a Minister had refused to provide information to Parliament because it was commercial-in-confidence.

"In all of these instances the Ministers' decision was not reasonable and, in all of these instances the agency's advice to their Minister in regard to the commercial confidentiality of the information was flawed and inadequate," he said.

 

 

 

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