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The people attracted to a career in Tzar Peter’s federal super ministry.....

May 18, 2018 - 00:16 -- Admin

Brisbane Times, 16 May 2018:The information chief at Peter Dutton’s new Home Affairs super ministry allegedly ordered the deletion of a government record relevant to a request under freedom of information laws when he was a senior executive at NSW’s transport agency.Tim Catley, who began his high-ranking role at Home Affairs in February, is accused of directing staff at Transport for NSW to delete government information in 2016, in witness statements given during an investigation by the state’s Information and Privacy Commission.Mr Catley vehemently denies he asked anyone to delete government records. “The allegation that I asked anyone to delete an email is not true and it is not technologically possible to do that anyway [at the transport agency]. Professionally and ethically I wouldn’t do anything like that,” he told the Herald.Following a referral from the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the state’s Information Commission launched an investigation behind closed doors into the deletion of a record at Transport for NSW to avoid public disclosure 18 months ago.During that investigation, the Information Commission was told of a culture inside Transport for NSW of suppressing bad news, meaning that higher levels within the department were not told of potential cost blowouts on projects.The investigation also heard that warnings about this culture of suppression were relayed to the then secretary of the department, Tim Reardon, now NSW’s top public servant as head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.A preliminary report on the Information Commission’s investigation, seen by the Herald, found that a Transport for NSW executive issued directions to delete government information relevant to a request under the Government Information (Public Access) Act (GIPA), the state’s freedom of information legislation.“The investigation has found that the executive directed the deletion of records that were germane to a GIPA access application and that staff acted on that direction,” the report, by Information and Privacy commissioner Elizabeth Tydd, said.Ms Tydd’s report did not name Mr Catley as the executive who directed the deletion. But the witness statements to the commission assert that it was Mr Catley who gave the direction.Despite her finding about the direction, Ms Tydd determined there were no grounds to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Attorney-General….According to Ms Tydd’s analysis, if the official who destroys the information is unaware the information is subject to a freedom-of-information request, the person who directed them to delete that information did not commit an offence.And because other staff at Transport for NSW later ensured the deleted document was retrieved, the commissioner found the government agency had not failed in its duty.According to evidence given during the investigation, Mr Catley raised concerns at a meeting in July 2016 about emails that detailed a cost blowout in the $425 million “Next Generation Infrastructure Services” project. An application for information about the IT project sought under the GIPA Act was also discussed at the meeting.That same month, Mr Catley allegedly directed a more junior staff member to delete an email about the exit from Transport for NSW of a manager who had a senior role overseeing the IT project, according to witness statements given to the Information Commission.At the time, Mr Catley had responsibility for technology at Transport for NSW as its chief information officer, a role he had held since 2012.Early this year, a “confidential” report by a consulting firm commissioned by Transport for NSW revealed a concerning picture of the state of IT at the state’s transport agencies.......