Scrutinising elections in e-Space Ongoing of concern about the conduct of electronic voting and the need for information to be readily available

The conduct of the 2006 Victorian State election had little to be desired, with the Victorian Electoral Commission again proving that it is the lesser of the two public authorities responsible for the conduct of public elections in Victoria.

The refusal of the VEC to publish detailed polling booth data for the Legislative Council and its failure to provide statistical information on the number of ballot papers issued prior to Saturday’s election has denied Victorians the right of an open and transparent election.

We are told that the reason that polling booth data was not provided is that the ABC
thought that the information was unnecessary for their purposes. If the provision of relevant data was too much for the ABC then the VEC should have produced two separate data files and left it up to the ABC what they wanted to report on.

The VEC has an obligation that goes beyond information the media. It is about maintaining open and transparent process.

Question: Will the polling booth data and below-the line-preference data be readily available after the declaration of the poll or do we have to FOI them again?

In future hopefully those in the loop will not only recommended but insist on full disclose of detailed election results and that includes producing data on the number of postal votes, pre-poll ballots issued along with electronic votes being identifiable from ordinary manual votes.

The issue of the VEC accessing the e-voting data before the close of the poll raises a number of issues of ongoing concern about the security of the electronic voting voting system that’s been implemented. What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the results are true and accurate and subject to independent, effective and proper scrutiny?

The recent mid term elections in the USA also highlight a number of issues.

The world was told that Florida’s elections were a true and accurate account, but there was no way to independently verify the fact.

Our system is a little different. We have a a preferential voting system, one of the worlds best and most democratic. With preferential voting the need to provide the preference data used to calculate the results is crucial. Even more so when it involves a third-party data-entry process.

Whilst there are some mechanisms in place to limit some data-entry transcription problems the system is still is open and susceptible to errors.

In previous election counts the VEC refused to do a preliminary manual throw of preferences, preferring to jump in and start the random data-entry process. This resulted in nightmare as it made it extremely difficult and close to impossible for scrutineers to monitor the accuracy of the computerised data-entry count. Another check digit removed.

A preliminary throw of the below-the-line votes not only helps with analyzing the outcome of the election but it also assists in the data-entry and scrutiny of the ballot. Scrutineers can decide which votes are of interest and devote resources accordingly. (We had the absurd situation, during the Melbourne City Council and other municipal elections, where if there was 20 candidates and 20 data-entry personal up to 400 scrutineers would have been required to properly scrutinise the data-entry process) Without a preliminary manual distribution scrutineers were denied the right to effectively monitor the various processes.

Unlike the VEC the AEC also provided information on the informal votes which was included in the data-set the AEC provided. This was very interesting and useful as votes of interest could be identified, pulled out and rechecked.

In providing copies of the preference data-set, Scrutineers are afforded the opportunity of undertaking independent analysis of the data as the count unfolds. Various electronic data queries could be run against copies of the data, queries that would not normally be undertaken by the electoral office, highlighting again votes of interest that could then be subject to a secondary glance and review.

Most of the issues discussed above diminish if and when we remove the third-party data-entry process altogether and voters record their electronic vote directly. As we move closer an closer to a time when voters will use computer technology to record their votes directly in real time new and additional issues of concern begin to rise . Issues such as the electorate office undertaking a preliminary count of the vote prior to the close of the poll. (As appears to have been the case in this election)

Electronic voting machines MUST be fitted with write once read only recording devices so that we can be confident that the data has not been hacked into from a central location out in cyberspace. Copies of this data and backup disk must be made available to scrutineers at the close of the poll. Each unit must also be stand alone and not be reliant on a central data connection. The last thing you want is someone with access to this data recording information, unknown to others misusing that data by either changing a few preferences or selling the information to interested parties (Political and commercial). At the conclusion of the count a certified and digitally signed data copy of all votes and preferences MUST be published on the Governments Internet site as part of the declaration procedures.

The issues that have been identified in America are the same here and world wide. The more elections move into e-Space the greater the significance in the provision of data in order to ensure that the election process remains open and transparent and is subject to independent public scrutiny. Without this information, as has been evident in this count, the public and scrutineers are left in the dark.

In previous elections polling booth data and the number of ballot papers issued were available and should have been in this election.

Scrutinising elections in e-Space Ongoing of concern about the conduct of electronic voting and the need for information to be readily available

The conduct of the 2006 Victorian State election had little to be desired, with the Victorian Electoral Commission again proving that it is the lesser of the two public authorities responsible for the conduct of public elections in Victoria.

The refusal of the VEC to publish detailed polling booth data for the Legislative Council and its failure to provide statistical information on the number of ballot papers issued prior to Saturday’s election has denied Victorians the right of an open and transparent election.

We are told that the reason that polling booth data was not provided is that the ABC
thought that the information was unnecessary for their purposes. If the provision of relevant data was too much for the ABC then the VEC should have produced two separate data files and left it up to the ABC what they wanted to report on.

The VEC has an obligation that goes beyond information the media. It is about maintaining open and transparent process.

Question: Will the polling booth data and below-the line-preference data be readily available after the declaration of the poll or do we have to FOI them again?

In future hopefully those in the loop will not only recommended but insist on full disclose of detailed election results and that includes producing data on the number of postal votes, pre-poll ballots issued along with electronic votes being identifiable from ordinary manual votes.

The issue of the VEC accessing the e-voting data before the close of the poll raises a number of issues of ongoing concern about the security of the electronic voting voting system that’s been implemented. What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the results are true and accurate and subject to independent, effective and proper scrutiny?

The recent mid term elections in the USA also highlight a number of issues.

The world was told that Florida’s elections were a true and accurate account, but there was no way to independently verify the fact.

Our system is a little different. We have a a preferential voting system, one of the worlds best and most democratic. With preferential voting the need to provide the preference data used to calculate the results is crucial. Even more so when it involves a third-party data-entry process.

Whilst there are some mechanisms in place to limit some data-entry transcription problems the system is still is open and susceptible to errors.

In previous election counts the VEC refused to do a preliminary manual throw of preferences, preferring to jump in and start the random data-entry process. This resulted in nightmare as it made it extremely difficult and close to impossible for scrutineers to monitor the accuracy of the computerised data-entry count. Another check digit removed.

A preliminary throw of the below-the-line votes not only helps with analyzing the outcome of the election but it also assists in the data-entry and scrutiny of the ballot. Scrutineers can decide which votes are of interest and devote resources accordingly. (We had the absurd situation, during the Melbourne City Council and other municipal elections, where if there was 20 candidates and 20 data-entry personal up to 400 scrutineers would have been required to properly scrutinise the data-entry process) Without a preliminary manual distribution scrutineers were denied the right to effectively monitor the various processes.

Unlike the VEC the AEC also provided information on the informal votes which was included in the data-set the AEC provided. This was very interesting and useful as votes of interest could be identified, pulled out and rechecked.

In providing copies of the preference data-set, Scrutineers are afforded the opportunity of undertaking independent analysis of the data as the count unfolds. Various electronic data queries could be run against copies of the data, queries that would not normally be undertaken by the electoral office, highlighting again votes of interest that could then be subject to a secondary glance and review.

Most of the issues discussed above diminish if and when we remove the third-party data-entry process altogether and voters record their electronic vote directly. As we move closer an closer to a time when voters will use computer technology to record their votes directly in real time new and additional issues of concern begin to rise . Issues such as the electorate office undertaking a preliminary count of the vote prior to the close of the poll. (As appears to have been the case in this election)

Electronic voting machines MUST be fitted with write once read only recording devices so that we can be confident that the data has not been hacked into from a central location out in cyberspace. Copies of this data and backup disk must be made available to scrutineers at the close of the poll. Each unit must also be stand alone and not be reliant on a central data connection. The last thing you want is someone with access to this data recording information, unknown to others misusing that data by either changing a few preferences or selling the information to interested parties (Political and commercial). At the conclusion of the count a certified and digitally signed data copy of all votes and preferences MUST be published on the Governments Internet site as part of the declaration procedures.

The issues that have been identified in America are the same here and world wide. The more elections move into e-Space the greater the significance in the provision of data in order to ensure that the election process remains open and transparent and is subject to independent public scrutiny. Without this information, as has been evident in this count, the public and scrutineers are left in the dark.

In previous elections polling booth data and the number of ballot papers issued were available and should have been in this election.

Scrutinising elections in e-Space Ongoing of concern about the conduct of electronic voting and the need for information to be readily available

The conduct of the 2006 Victorian State election had little to be desired, with the Victorian Electoral Commission again proving that it is the lesser of the two public authorities responsible for the conduct of public elections in Victoria.

The refusal of the VEC to publish detailed polling booth data for the Legislative Council and its failure to provide statistical information on the number of ballot papers issued prior to Saturday’s election has denied Victorians the right of an open and transparent election.

We are told that the reason that polling booth data was not provided is that the ABC
thought that the information was unnecessary for their purposes. If the provision of relevant data was too much for the ABC then the VEC should have produced two separate data files and left it up to the ABC what they wanted to report on.

The VEC has an obligation that goes beyond information the media. It is about maintaining open and transparent process.

Question: Will the polling booth data and below-the line-preference data be readily available after the declaration of the poll or do we have to FOI them again?

In future hopefully those in the loop will not only recommended but insist on full disclose of detailed election results and that includes producing data on the number of postal votes, pre-poll ballots issued along with electronic votes being identifiable from ordinary manual votes.

The issue of the VEC accessing the e-voting data before the close of the poll raises a number of issues of ongoing concern about the security of the electronic voting voting system that’s been implemented. What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the results are true and accurate and subject to independent, effective and proper scrutiny?

The recent mid term elections in the USA also highlight a number of issues.

The world was told that Florida’s elections were a true and accurate account, but there was no way to independently verify the fact.

Our system is a little different. We have a a preferential voting system, one of the worlds best and most democratic. With preferential voting the need to provide the preference data used to calculate the results is crucial. Even more so when it involves a third-party data-entry process.

Whilst there are some mechanisms in place to limit some data-entry transcription problems the system is still is open and susceptible to errors.

In previous election counts the VEC refused to do a preliminary manual throw of preferences, preferring to jump in and start the random data-entry process. This resulted in nightmare as it made it extremely difficult and close to impossible for scrutineers to monitor the accuracy of the computerised data-entry count. Another check digit removed.

A preliminary throw of the below-the-line votes not only helps with analyzing the outcome of the election but it also assists in the data-entry and scrutiny of the ballot. Scrutineers can decide which votes are of interest and devote resources accordingly. (We had the absurd situation, during the Melbourne City Council and other municipal elections, where if there was 20 candidates and 20 data-entry personal up to 400 scrutineers would have been required to properly scrutinise the data-entry process) Without a preliminary manual distribution scrutineers were denied the right to effectively monitor the various processes.

Unlike the VEC the AEC also provided information on the informal votes which was included in the data-set the AEC provided. This was very interesting and useful as votes of interest could be identified, pulled out and rechecked.

In providing copies of the preference data-set, Scrutineers are afforded the opportunity of undertaking independent analysis of the data as the count unfolds. Various electronic data queries could be run against copies of the data, queries that would not normally be undertaken by the electoral office, highlighting again votes of interest that could then be subject to a secondary glance and review.

Most of the issues discussed above diminish if and when we remove the third-party data-entry process altogether and voters record their electronic vote directly. As we move closer an closer to a time when voters will use computer technology to record their votes directly in real time new and additional issues of concern begin to rise . Issues such as the electorate office undertaking a preliminary count of the vote prior to the close of the poll. (As appears to have been the case in this election)

Electronic voting machines MUST be fitted with write once read only recording devices so that we can be confident that the data has not been hacked into from a central location out in cyberspace. Copies of this data and backup disk must be made available to scrutineers at the close of the poll. Each unit must also be stand alone and not be reliant on a central data connection. The last thing you want is someone with access to this data recording information, unknown to others misusing that data by either changing a few preferences or selling the information to interested parties (Political and commercial). At the conclusion of the count a certified and digitally signed data copy of all votes and preferences MUST be published on the Governments Internet site as part of the declaration procedures.

The issues that have been identified in America are the same here and world wide. The more elections move into e-Space the greater the significance in the provision of data in order to ensure that the election process remains open and transparent and is subject to independent public scrutiny. Without this information, as has been evident in this count, the public and scrutineers are left in the dark.

In previous elections polling booth data and the number of ballot papers issued were available and should have been in this election.

Transparency and Accountability— Key To Effective Anti-Corruption

– Extract of a paper on Good Governance, Open and Transparency and Accountability -Australian Council for International Development, 2004

When communities operate with transparency, decisions are made and carried out in an open manner.

Transparent systems permit everyone to make informed choices, and give everyone access to information in an easily understood format.

Accountability is acting responsibly and being answerable for actions taken.

A lack of transparency and insufficient accountability creates the conditions in which corruption flourishes.

A lack of transparency in allocation of government resources, poor accountability from government and private companies to their community stakeholders, and practices that foster evasiveness are characteristics of poor governance.

This all contributes to increasing the risk of corrupt practices. Good governance is a means addressing the results of corruption, but also must deal with the underlying reasons that cause corruption.

Readily available access to public information is essential to good governance and a tool against corruption

CITY OF MELBOURNE

The City of Melbourne MUST demonstrate a commitment to maintaining Open and Transparent public accountably.

It MUST ensure that information is readily available and accessible.

Publication of public documents and accounts are essential weapon to fighting corruption.

What has the City of Melbourne administration got to hide?

Why has the “Travel Register” a public document required under law, previously published its internet site, been withdrawn and hidden away from public scrutiny.

QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

WHY HAS THE ELECTED COUNCIL NOT ACTED TO ENSURE THIS INFORMATION IS READILY AVAILABLE.

IS THERE A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE AND AVOIDANCE OR JUST INCOMPETENCE?

THE INTERNET IS AN EFFECTIVE AND VALUABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION AND MEANS OF COMBATING CORRUPTION THE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD BE EMBRACED THIS TECHNOLOGY AS A MEANS OF DISSEMINATING BY THE MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL

Transparency and Accountability— Key To Effective Anti-Corruption

– Extract of a paper on Good Governance, Open and Transparency and Accountability -Australian Council for International Development, 2004

When communities operate with transparency, decisions are made and carried out in an open manner.

Transparent systems permit everyone to make informed choices, and give everyone access to information in an easily understood format.

Accountability is acting responsibly and being answerable for actions taken.

A lack of transparency and insufficient accountability creates the conditions in which corruption flourishes.

A lack of transparency in allocation of government resources, poor accountability from government and private companies to their community stakeholders, and practices that foster evasiveness are characteristics of poor governance.

This all contributes to increasing the risk of corrupt practices. Good governance is a means addressing the results of corruption, but also must deal with the underlying reasons that cause corruption.

Readily available access to public information is essential to good governance and a tool against corruption

CITY OF MELBOURNE

The City of Melbourne MUST demonstrate a commitment to maintaining Open and Transparent public accountably.

It MUST ensure that information is readily available and accessible.

Publication of public documents and accounts are essential weapon to fighting corruption.

What has the City of Melbourne administration got to hide?

Why has the “Travel Register” a public document required under law, previously published its internet site, been withdrawn and hidden away from public scrutiny.

QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

WHY HAS THE ELECTED COUNCIL NOT ACTED TO ENSURE THIS INFORMATION IS READILY AVAILABLE.

IS THERE A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE AND AVOIDANCE OR JUST INCOMPETENCE?

THE INTERNET IS AN EFFECTIVE AND VALUABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION AND MEANS OF COMBATING CORRUPTION THE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD BE EMBRACED THIS TECHNOLOGY AS A MEANS OF DISSEMINATING BY THE MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL

Transparency and Accountability— Key To Effective Anti-Corruption

– Extract of a paper on Good Governance, Open and Transparency and Accountability -Australian Council for International Development, 2004

When communities operate with transparency, decisions are made and carried out in an open manner.

Transparent systems permit everyone to make informed choices, and give everyone access to information in an easily understood format.

Accountability is acting responsibly and being answerable for actions taken.

A lack of transparency and insufficient accountability creates the conditions in which corruption flourishes.

A lack of transparency in allocation of government resources, poor accountability from government and private companies to their community stakeholders, and practices that foster evasiveness are characteristics of poor governance.

This all contributes to increasing the risk of corrupt practices. Good governance is a means addressing the results of corruption, but also must deal with the underlying reasons that cause corruption.

Readily available access to public information is essential to good governance and a tool against corruption

CITY OF MELBOURNE

The City of Melbourne MUST demonstrate a commitment to maintaining Open and Transparent public accountably.

It MUST ensure that information is readily available and accessible.

Publication of public documents and accounts are essential weapon to fighting corruption.

What has the City of Melbourne administration got to hide?

Why has the “Travel Register” a public document required under law, previously published its internet site, been withdrawn and hidden away from public scrutiny.

QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

WHY HAS THE ELECTED COUNCIL NOT ACTED TO ENSURE THIS INFORMATION IS READILY AVAILABLE.

IS THERE A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE AND AVOIDANCE OR JUST INCOMPETENCE?

THE INTERNET IS AN EFFECTIVE AND VALUABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION AND MEANS OF COMBATING CORRUPTION THE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD BE EMBRACED THIS TECHNOLOGY AS A MEANS OF DISSEMINATING BY THE MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL

All public documents should be accessible via the internet

Melbourne City Council and the State Government called on to ensure the right of readily available access to public documents via the internet as part of their commitment to honest, open and transparent government.

The Victorian Local Government Regulations, made pursuant to the Victorian Local Government Act, requires a Municipal Council to make available certain information to the public.

The Victorian Parliament in assenting to these regulations recognised the importance of the public’s right to know and that certain information must be maintained by a Municipal Council and open to public inspection.

These regulations were first drafted when the Internet was in its infancy and not widely deployed. The Internet today has become an important, cost effective and efficient means of communication.

The Local Government Act and the Local Government Regulations have not been updated to take into consideration new internet technology and as such there is no compulsion or requirement for a Municipal Council to publish and make available public documents and information on the Municipal Council’s Internet site.

At the same time there is nothing other then good will and intent preventing a Municipal Council from publishing this information on the Internet making it readily available and accessible by the public.

The only reason that this information is not published on the Internet site is the Council administration’s desire to limit the availability and access to information and by doing so avoid accountability.

The City of Melbourne reluctent attitude and refusal of ongoing requests that public information , required under the terms of the Local Government Act to be readily available and accessible to the public, be published on it’s internet site demonstrates the Council’s inability and unwillingness to self-govern or to act in the public’s interest.

Under the management of David Pitchard, CEO, and Alison Lyon’s, Legal Governance Officer, the City Council administration have gone to extra-ordinary efforts to prevent readily available public access to this information.

Publication of the Council’s Travel register is required to be maintained under clause 21(c) of the Victorian Government Regulations and following numerous request and submission by the public to the elected Council this information was published and made available via the Council’s Internet site in 2004.

The information published provided details of Councillor and Staff Overseas and interstate Travel.

The Council administration were so opposed to this information being readily available to the public that they withdraw it’s publication on the internet previously soon after the election of the new Council in 2005 without the authority or consent of the elected Councillors.

The elected Council under the leadership of the Lord Mayor, John So, and his Deputy Lord Mayor, Garry Singer, continue to avoid the responsibility and obligations to protect the public’s right of access to information by failing to hold the Council administration to account and request that the publication of this information be maintained and accessible via the Council’s Internet site.

If the City Council cannot self-govern or act in then public’s interest then it is incumbent on the State Parliament to review the regulations to ensure that the right of access to this information is readily available to the public by making it mandatory for all public documents to be published on the Council’s Internet site.

– Extract of Part 8 of the Local Government Act –

Victorian Local Government Regulations 2001

PART 8—INFORMATION TO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC

21. Documents to be made available for public inspection
A Council must make available for public inspection documents containing the following prescribed matters—
(a) details of current allowances fixed for the Mayor, Lord Mayor (if any) and Councillorsunder section 74 or 74A of the Act;
(b) details of senior officers’ total salarypackages for the current financial year andthe previous year including the gross salary,the amount of the Council or employercontribution to superannuation, the value ofany motor vehicle provided by the Counciland the total value of any other benefits andallowances provided by the Council;
(c) details of overseas or interstate travel (withthe exception of interstate travel by land forless than 3 days) undertaken in an officialcapacity by Councillors or any member ofCouncil staff in the previous12 months, including the names of theCouncillors or members of Council staff andthe date, destination, purpose and total costof the overseas or interstate travel;
(d) names of Council officers who were requiredto submit a return of interest during thefinancial year and the dates the returns weresubmitted;
(e) names of Councillors who submitted returnsof interest during the financial year and thedates the returns were submitted;
(f) agendas for and minutes of ordinary andspecial meetings held in the previous12 months kept under section 93 of the Actexcept if the minutes relate to parts ofmeetings which have been closed tomembers of the public under section 89 ofthe Act;
(g) a list of all special committees established byCouncil and the purpose for which eachcommittee was established;
(h) a list of all special committees established bythe Council which were abolished or ceasedto function during the financial year;
(i) minutes of meetings of special committeesestablished under section 86 of the Act andheld in the previous 12 months except if theminutes relate to parts of meetings whichhave been closed to members of the publicunder section 89 of the Act;
(j) applications for enrolment on the voters’ rollunder sections 12 and 13 of the Act for theimmediate past roll and the next roll beingprepared;
(k) a register of delegations kept under sections87, 88 and 98 of the Act;
(l) submissions received in accordance withsection 223 of the Act during the previous12 months;
(m) agreements to establish regional librariesunder section 196 of the Act;
(n) details of all property, finance and operatingleases involving land, buildings, plant,computer equipment or vehicles entered intoby the Council as lessor or lessee, includingthe name of the other party to the lease andthe terms and the value of the lease;
(o) a register of authorised officers appointedunder section 224 of the Act;
(p) a list of donations and grants made by theCouncil during the financial year, includingthe names of persons or bodies which havereceived a donation or grant and the amountof each donation or grant;
(q) a list of the names of the organisations ofwhich the Council was a member during thefinancial year and details of all membershipfees and other amounts and servicesprovided during that year to eachorganisation by the Council;
(r) a list of contracts valued at $100 000 or morewhich the Council entered into during thefinancial year without first engaging in acompetitive process and which are notcontracts referred to in section 186(5) of theAct.

All public documents should be accessible via the internet

Melbourne City Council and the State Government called on to ensure the right of readily available access to public documents via the internet as part of their commitment to honest, open and transparent government.

The Victorian Local Government Regulations, made pursuant to the Victorian Local Government Act, requires a Municipal Council to make available certain information to the public.

The Victorian Parliament in assenting to these regulations recognised the importance of the public’s right to know and that certain information must be maintained by a Municipal Council and open to public inspection.

These regulations were first drafted when the Internet was in its infancy and not widely deployed. The Internet today has become an important, cost effective and efficient means of communication.

The Local Government Act and the Local Government Regulations have not been updated to take into consideration new internet technology and as such there is no compulsion or requirement for a Municipal Council to publish and make available public documents and information on the Municipal Council’s Internet site.

At the same time there is nothing other then good will and intent preventing a Municipal Council from publishing this information on the Internet making it readily available and accessible by the public.

The only reason that this information is not published on the Internet site is the Council administration’s desire to limit the availability and access to information and by doing so avoid accountability.

The City of Melbourne reluctent attitude and refusal of ongoing requests that public information , required under the terms of the Local Government Act to be readily available and accessible to the public, be published on it’s internet site demonstrates the Council’s inability and unwillingness to self-govern or to act in the public’s interest.

Under the management of David Pitchard, CEO, and Alison Lyon’s, Legal Governance Officer, the City Council administration have gone to extra-ordinary efforts to prevent readily available public access to this information.

Publication of the Council’s Travel register is required to be maintained under clause 21(c) of the Victorian Government Regulations and following numerous request and submission by the public to the elected Council this information was published and made available via the Council’s Internet site in 2004.

The information published provided details of Councillor and Staff Overseas and interstate Travel.

The Council administration were so opposed to this information being readily available to the public that they withdraw it’s publication on the internet previously soon after the election of the new Council in 2005 without the authority or consent of the elected Councillors.

The elected Council under the leadership of the Lord Mayor, John So, and his Deputy Lord Mayor, Garry Singer, continue to avoid the responsibility and obligations to protect the public’s right of access to information by failing to hold the Council administration to account and request that the publication of this information be maintained and accessible via the Council’s Internet site.

If the City Council cannot self-govern or act in then public’s interest then it is incumbent on the State Parliament to review the regulations to ensure that the right of access to this information is readily available to the public by making it mandatory for all public documents to be published on the Council’s Internet site.

– Extract of Part 8 of the Local Government Act –

Victorian Local Government Regulations 2001

PART 8—INFORMATION TO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC

21. Documents to be made available for public inspection
A Council must make available for public inspection documents containing the following prescribed matters—
(a) details of current allowances fixed for the Mayor, Lord Mayor (if any) and Councillorsunder section 74 or 74A of the Act;
(b) details of senior officers’ total salarypackages for the current financial year andthe previous year including the gross salary,the amount of the Council or employercontribution to superannuation, the value ofany motor vehicle provided by the Counciland the total value of any other benefits andallowances provided by the Council;
(c) details of overseas or interstate travel (withthe exception of interstate travel by land forless than 3 days) undertaken in an officialcapacity by Councillors or any member ofCouncil staff in the previous12 months, including the names of theCouncillors or members of Council staff andthe date, destination, purpose and total costof the overseas or interstate travel;
(d) names of Council officers who were requiredto submit a return of interest during thefinancial year and the dates the returns weresubmitted;
(e) names of Councillors who submitted returnsof interest during the financial year and thedates the returns were submitted;
(f) agendas for and minutes of ordinary andspecial meetings held in the previous12 months kept under section 93 of the Actexcept if the minutes relate to parts ofmeetings which have been closed tomembers of the public under section 89 ofthe Act;
(g) a list of all special committees established byCouncil and the purpose for which eachcommittee was established;
(h) a list of all special committees established bythe Council which were abolished or ceasedto function during the financial year;
(i) minutes of meetings of special committeesestablished under section 86 of the Act andheld in the previous 12 months except if theminutes relate to parts of meetings whichhave been closed to members of the publicunder section 89 of the Act;
(j) applications for enrolment on the voters’ rollunder sections 12 and 13 of the Act for theimmediate past roll and the next roll beingprepared;
(k) a register of delegations kept under sections87, 88 and 98 of the Act;
(l) submissions received in accordance withsection 223 of the Act during the previous12 months;
(m) agreements to establish regional librariesunder section 196 of the Act;
(n) details of all property, finance and operatingleases involving land, buildings, plant,computer equipment or vehicles entered intoby the Council as lessor or lessee, includingthe name of the other party to the lease andthe terms and the value of the lease;
(o) a register of authorised officers appointedunder section 224 of the Act;
(p) a list of donations and grants made by theCouncil during the financial year, includingthe names of persons or bodies which havereceived a donation or grant and the amountof each donation or grant;
(q) a list of the names of the organisations ofwhich the Council was a member during thefinancial year and details of all membershipfees and other amounts and servicesprovided during that year to eachorganisation by the Council;
(r) a list of contracts valued at $100 000 or morewhich the Council entered into during thefinancial year without first engaging in acompetitive process and which are notcontracts referred to in section 186(5) of theAct.

All public documents should be accessible via the internet

Melbourne City Council and the State Government called on to ensure the right of readily available access to public documents via the internet as part of their commitment to honest, open and transparent government.

The Victorian Local Government Regulations, made pursuant to the Victorian Local Government Act, requires a Municipal Council to make available certain information to the public.

The Victorian Parliament in assenting to these regulations recognised the importance of the public’s right to know and that certain information must be maintained by a Municipal Council and open to public inspection.

These regulations were first drafted when the Internet was in its infancy and not widely deployed. The Internet today has become an important, cost effective and efficient means of communication.

The Local Government Act and the Local Government Regulations have not been updated to take into consideration new internet technology and as such there is no compulsion or requirement for a Municipal Council to publish and make available public documents and information on the Municipal Council’s Internet site.

At the same time there is nothing other then good will and intent preventing a Municipal Council from publishing this information on the Internet making it readily available and accessible by the public.

The only reason that this information is not published on the Internet site is the Council administration’s desire to limit the availability and access to information and by doing so avoid accountability.

The City of Melbourne reluctent attitude and refusal of ongoing requests that public information , required under the terms of the Local Government Act to be readily available and accessible to the public, be published on it’s internet site demonstrates the Council’s inability and unwillingness to self-govern or to act in the public’s interest.

Under the management of David Pitchard, CEO, and Alison Lyon’s, Legal Governance Officer, the City Council administration have gone to extra-ordinary efforts to prevent readily available public access to this information.

Publication of the Council’s Travel register is required to be maintained under clause 21(c) of the Victorian Government Regulations and following numerous request and submission by the public to the elected Council this information was published and made available via the Council’s Internet site in 2004.

The information published provided details of Councillor and Staff Overseas and interstate Travel.

The Council administration were so opposed to this information being readily available to the public that they withdraw it’s publication on the internet previously soon after the election of the new Council in 2005 without the authority or consent of the elected Councillors.

The elected Council under the leadership of the Lord Mayor, John So, and his Deputy Lord Mayor, Garry Singer, continue to avoid the responsibility and obligations to protect the public’s right of access to information by failing to hold the Council administration to account and request that the publication of this information be maintained and accessible via the Council’s Internet site.

If the City Council cannot self-govern or act in then public’s interest then it is incumbent on the State Parliament to review the regulations to ensure that the right of access to this information is readily available to the public by making it mandatory for all public documents to be published on the Council’s Internet site.

– Extract of Part 8 of the Local Government Act –

Victorian Local Government Regulations 2001

PART 8—INFORMATION TO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC

21. Documents to be made available for public inspection
A Council must make available for public inspection documents containing the following prescribed matters—
(a) details of current allowances fixed for the Mayor, Lord Mayor (if any) and Councillorsunder section 74 or 74A of the Act;
(b) details of senior officers’ total salarypackages for the current financial year andthe previous year including the gross salary,the amount of the Council or employercontribution to superannuation, the value ofany motor vehicle provided by the Counciland the total value of any other benefits andallowances provided by the Council;
(c) details of overseas or interstate travel (withthe exception of interstate travel by land forless than 3 days) undertaken in an officialcapacity by Councillors or any member ofCouncil staff in the previous12 months, including the names of theCouncillors or members of Council staff andthe date, destination, purpose and total costof the overseas or interstate travel;
(d) names of Council officers who were requiredto submit a return of interest during thefinancial year and the dates the returns weresubmitted;
(e) names of Councillors who submitted returnsof interest during the financial year and thedates the returns were submitted;
(f) agendas for and minutes of ordinary andspecial meetings held in the previous12 months kept under section 93 of the Actexcept if the minutes relate to parts ofmeetings which have been closed tomembers of the public under section 89 ofthe Act;
(g) a list of all special committees established byCouncil and the purpose for which eachcommittee was established;
(h) a list of all special committees established bythe Council which were abolished or ceasedto function during the financial year;
(i) minutes of meetings of special committeesestablished under section 86 of the Act andheld in the previous 12 months except if theminutes relate to parts of meetings whichhave been closed to members of the publicunder section 89 of the Act;
(j) applications for enrolment on the voters’ rollunder sections 12 and 13 of the Act for theimmediate past roll and the next roll beingprepared;
(k) a register of delegations kept under sections87, 88 and 98 of the Act;
(l) submissions received in accordance withsection 223 of the Act during the previous12 months;
(m) agreements to establish regional librariesunder section 196 of the Act;
(n) details of all property, finance and operatingleases involving land, buildings, plant,computer equipment or vehicles entered intoby the Council as lessor or lessee, includingthe name of the other party to the lease andthe terms and the value of the lease;
(o) a register of authorised officers appointedunder section 224 of the Act;
(p) a list of donations and grants made by theCouncil during the financial year, includingthe names of persons or bodies which havereceived a donation or grant and the amountof each donation or grant;
(q) a list of the names of the organisations ofwhich the Council was a member during thefinancial year and details of all membershipfees and other amounts and servicesprovided during that year to eachorganisation by the Council;
(r) a list of contracts valued at $100 000 or morewhich the Council entered into during thefinancial year without first engaging in acompetitive process and which are notcontracts referred to in section 186(5) of theAct.

Open and Transparent Governance via the Internet

The State Government’s $50,000 cost in addressing FOI requests by the Liberal Opposition spokesperson (The Age November 15) pales into insignificance when compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the Melbourne City Council seeking to avoid disclosure and accountability related to Council’s expenses and details of election results.

The City Council’s actions and extent avoidance are an ongoing abuse of process.

With the City Council demonstrating its inability to self-govern, it is now incumbent on the State Government in fulfilment of its commitment to open and transparent government that it embrace new technology and legislate ensuring that access to public information is readily available and published on the Internet and not hidden from public view.

The Local Givernment Act should be amended to require the publication of public documents on the Internet.

Without State Government intervention the City of Melbourne will not come clean

Anthony van der Craats