An NSW watchdog has found Gladys Berejiklian’s office breached the State Records act when it shredded policy documents relating to a controversial grants program.
The NSW State Archives and Records Authority (SARA) wrote in a report obtained by NCA NewsWire on Friday that the decision to shred and destroy working advice notes relating to the Stronger Communities Fund was in breach of the State Records act.
“The Authority finds that the Office of the Premier breached section 21(1) of the State Records Act with the unauthorised disposal of the working advice notes,” SARA wrote.
The watchdog also found the records management information in a handbook supplied to ministerial staff isn’t sufficiently clear in guiding them how to deal with document-keeping.
It also found “the monitoring of records management in the Office of the Premier was insufficient and could not appropriately provide management assurance of compliance with records management obligations”.
SARA also wrote in its report it did not find that the shredding and deletion were a result of “explicit instruction” by any staffer in the Premier’s office.
The report contains recommendations to update the handbook, and to develop a formal record management program to advise ministerial staffers on the issue.
“The Government thanks the State Archives and Records Authority for its efforts – particularly its recommendations for reform,” a spokesman for the NSW government said.
“The authority noted that the error occurred because the rules were ambiguous, and the advice provided on document classification and disposal was inadequate.”
The spokesman said the government would support all the recommendations in the report, “including updating the existing retention and disposal advice, which is decades old”.
“We also note the authority’s view that the disposal of working advice notes was the product of misunderstanding, not an attempt to avoid the rules,” the spokesman continued.
“As such, there will also be enhanced training for ministerial staff to ensure they meet their responsibilities under the Act.”
The report came after a separate review by the NSW Information and Privacy Commission into the same shredding incident found the Premier’s office didn’t break the Government Information Public Access Act.
More to come.