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NCAT affirms Council decision to release IAB Investigation Report

September 10, 2020

On 2 September 2020, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of New South Wales (NCAT) affirmed a decision by Georges River Council to release a Report of a 2015 independent investigation report by IAB Services (IAB) concerning a Councillor’s alleged breaches of the former Hurstville City Council Code of Conduct.

The IAB Report found that a Councillor had breached the Hurstville City Council’s Code of Conduct. Hurstville City Council, however, found that the allegations were ‘not made out’.

NCAT found that Hurstville City Council did not have authority to make a finding that the allegations were ‘not made out’ and that Council's role in the process was to determine whether a sanction was to be imposed in relation to the findings.

Hurstville City Council went into administration early in 2016 and was soon afterwards amalgamated with Kogarah City Council to become Georges River Council.

In August 2019, Georges River Council received a Government Information Public Access (GIPA) application to release the IAB Report. Although the Councillor who was the subject of the Report objected, Georges River Council decided to release the Report, considering that the public interest in disclosing the information contained in the Report outweighed the public interest considerations against its disclosure.

The Councillor applied to NCAT for an order to set aside Georges River Council’s decision to release the IAB Report.

The NCAT decision in the matter included the following:

‘The IAB Report’s conclusion was that the Applicant committed multiple breaches of the Code of Conduct. I agree with the Respondent that the disclosure of information related to internal decision-making processes of the Council is consistent with the object of the GIPA Act to facilitate responsible and representative democratic government by opening government information to the public. This is even more so in the case of documents which relate to allegations of misconduct in public office. In my view, the weight to be given to this consideration in favour of the release of the IAB Report, far outweighs the identified considerations against disclosure.

It follows that, in my view, the correct and preferable decision is to release the IAB Report to the access applicant, subject to the redaction of information that identifies the complainant. This is the decision that was taken by the Respondent. Accordingly, the decision under review should be affirmed’.

It is important to note that NCAT was only affirming Georges River Council’s decision to release the IAB Report, and did not go to the content of the investigation itself.

The matter investigated in the IAB investigation was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 September 2020. To access the full NCAT decision

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