Local governments collect and manage a considerable range of personal information when delivering services which are so integral in our daily lives. The flipside is the potential risk of corruption when this information is then used or disclosed, in a way which breaches the laws designed to protect that information. The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) has released a report in November 2020 which puts the spotlight on the misuse of personal information held by local government and where these corruption risks are most likely to occur, along with providing prevention and detection strategies.
The Unauthorised access and disclosure of information held by local government report asserts misuse of personal and other information by local government employees or councillors can amount to corrupt conduct, and urges local governments to improve how they protect the information they hold. Misuse includes unauthorised access to, and/or disclosure of, information.
Potential for corrupt conduct
An analysis of IBAC’s investigations showed approximately 60 per cent of all investigations have included some form of information misuse, although this may not have been the original allegation investigated. It is suspected that such breaches are underreported. It has been further discovered that councillors are typically more likely to conduct breaches than local government employees, but this might also be because there are further motivations to report breaches by councillors, such as reports made by rival councillors.
Specific examples of areas where IBAC found corrupt conduct most likely to exist were:
As a result of extensive variation amongst local governments, corruption risks are relative to their varied working environments. IBAC’s report identified three specific risks related to information access and disclosure, which include:
Recommendations from IBAC
To ensure local governments improve their handling of personal information, in its report, IBAC provided a number of prevention and detection strategies such as the following:
Key to stamping out misuse of information in local government is creating a culture of enhanced integrity. Local governments should start by reviewing internal policies and information management frameworks, creating reporting guidelines and training staff to understand where their responsibilities lie and where risks may be created.
Authors: Emily Booth & Luke Flegeltaub
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.