This Operational Procedure is issued under the authority of the Commissioner and should be read together with the ACNC Policy Framework, which sets out the scope, context and definitions common to our policies.

Context statement

This Operational Procedure sets out how the ACNC will comply with the requirement of Part II to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act) to establish and maintain an Information Publication Scheme (IPS).

Consistent with the Operational Procedure for reviewing ACNC policies, this OP shall be reviewed every three years. In order to ensure compliance with the ACNC’s broader IPS obligations, a review of this OP shall coincide with a review of the ACNC IPS Agency Plan (Agency Plan, which is Attachment A to the Operational Procedure) and completing a self-assessment of IPS compliance.

Individual directorates are primarily responsible for information which is published that relates to the work of that directorate. Each review should be used as an opportunity for directorates to review published material to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date.

Procedure

  1. As detailed in the Agency Plan, the FOI Act requires that agencies publish certain information as part of their IPS, and that agencies ensure the published information is accurate, up-to-date and complete.
  2. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Contact Officer (under the supervision of the Director of Legal & Policy) has primary responsibility for leading the ACNC’s work on IPS compliance. This Operational Procedure guides how:
    1. ACNC staff are to identify documents that may be required to be published under the IPS;
    2. the FOI Contact Officer will consider whether a document should be published;
    3. the ACNC will maintain an accurate, up-to-date and complete IPS; and
    4. the ACNC will conduct reviews of its IPS.

Key responsibilities for all staff

  1. All staff should be aware that certain classes of information are required to be published as part of the IPS. Staff should refer to the list at paragraph 9 of this procedure to guide their assessment of whether a document falls within a category that would require the document to be published.
  2. If a staff member believes that a document falls within one of those classes, they should alert their director, and then contact the FOI Contact Officer to confirm whether publication is required.
  3. When a staff member forms the view that a document should be published under the IPS, but believes there are good reasons not to publish the document, they must still seek the view of the FOI Contact Officer. They must clearly explain to the FOI Contact Officer why they do not consider that the document should be published. The FOI Contact Officer will then consider whether the document falls within a class of documents that are required to be published, and whether any exemptions apply that would allow the ACNC to decide not to publish the document.
  4. Once the FOI Contact Officer has confirmed that the document should be published and the IPS category under which it should be published, the FOI Contact Officer will advise the directorate that owns the document. That directorate must liaise with Education and Public Affairs (EPA), using the procedures set out by EPA, to arrange for the document to be published on the ACNC website within a reasonable time.
  5. Where a document will be located on the website should be determined by EPA and the directorate that owns the document. Its location should be logical and it should be situated with related materials. EPA may request minor changes to the document for publishing purposes (such as the removal of footnotes or font changes). This is acceptable, as long as the substance and spirit of the document remains the same.

Documents that are required to be published

  1. The list below indicates the directorates most likely to be responsible for each class of information.
  2. The following information must be published under the IPS:
    1. Agency Plan – this sets out what information the ACNC will publish, how and to whom it will publish information, and how the ACNC otherwise proposes to comply with Part II of the FOI Act (Legal & Policy).
    2. Details about the ACNC’s structure (for example, its organisational chart) (Corporate Services).
    3. Details about the ACNC's functions and powers – this would include functions that are established by legislation, a decision of government or an executive action (Legal & Policy).
    4. An annual report, or information contained in an annual report – prepared by the ACNC to be laid before the parliament (EPA).
    5. Details about the Commissioner’s appointment and the appointments of advisory board members (EPA).
    6. Details of consultation arrangements for members of the public to comment on specific matters (Relevant directorate).
    7. A document that is routinely provided through FOI requests (under Part III of the FOI Act) (Legal & Policy).
    8. Information that is routinely provided to Parliament (EPA).

Operational information

  1. Staff should familiarise themselves with the definition of ‘operational information’, as this is the class of documents that is most likely to be required to be published and updated on a regular basis.
  2. Operational information is defined in section 8A(1) of the FOI Act as:

    'information held by the agency to assist the agency to perform or exercise the agency's functions or powers in making decisions or recommendations affecting members of the public (or any particular person or entity, or class of persons or entities)’.

  3. Operational information should be published so that members of the public can be informed about the framework of rules, policies, principles and procedures that the ACNC applies when it makes decisions that may affect the public. Publication helps to ensure that no-one is disadvantaged by not understanding how the ACNC operates.
  4. Operational information includes:
    1. Commissioner’s Policy Statements, which explain how the ACNC interprets, approaches and administers the ACNC Act;
    2. Corporate Policies that contain information directed at guiding or influencing decision making or recommendations that impact members of the public; and
    3. Operational Procedures that define responsibilities within the ACNC, and/or set out how decisions are made.
  5. Corporate Policies and Operational Procedures that do not contain operational information as defined in section 8A(1) of the FOI Act do not have to be published. However, in line with the ACNC’s preference for disclosure, directorates may choose to publish them if they may be of interest to the public.
  6. Work Instructions, which explain how a process is to be implemented will not generally meet the definition of ‘operational information’ and will not need to be published. Work Instructions are usually specific to a team, and set out the mechanics of how we perform some of our functions, but they would not illuminate the public on how we make decisions that affect them.
  7. Section 10 of the FOI Act establishes that a person should not be disadvantaged if they do something which they may not have done if they had had access to operational information which was not published.

Documents that are exempt from publication

  1. Some classes of information are exempt from publication as part of the IPS. Section 8C of the FOI Act details the relevant exemptions as follows:
    1. A document which is exempt under Part IV of the FOI Act, which sets out exceptions to the disclosure of documents through FOI requests; and
    2. information that is restricted or prohibited from publication by an enactment (for example, information that is protected by the ACNC secrecy provisions).
  2. Where a document contains both exempt and non-exempt material, an edited copy of the document should be prepared and published

FOI Contact Officer - Considering whether a document should be published

  1. Once a document has been identified as potentially requiring publication under the IPS, the FOI Contact Officer must identify whether the document falls within a class of documents that are required to be published, whether any relevant exemptions apply and whether, if the document is not required to be published, the document should nevertheless be published, in accordance with the aims of the FOI Act and the pro-disclosure culture of the ACNC. This pro-disclosure position is backed up by subsection 8(4) of the FOI Act – agencies may publish any information, even if they are not required to.
  2. The FOI Contact Officer will consult with relevant ACNC staff when considering whether a particular document should be published.
  3. If the FOI Contact Officer considers that there is a risk to the ACNC, the government or any government body, or a third party if the information is published, and it is unclear whether an exemption applies, the matter must be discussed with the Director of Legal & Policy.

FOI Contact Officer - Ongoing Obligations

  1. The FOI Contact Officer is responsible for ensuring that the ACNC complies with its obligations under the FOI Act in relation to the IPS. To achieve this, the IPS should be updated on an ongoing basis, since new information is produced and existing information is constantly revised. The FOI Contact Officer is required to:
    1. provide information and assistance to staff about the IPS requirements,
    2. ensure directors regularly review documents they have published on the website and
    3. stay informed about any updates to the law or guidance provided by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) or other relevant government agency.

FOI Contact Officer - Review of the IPS

  1. The FOI Contact Officer is to conduct regular reviews of the IPS. Under the FOI Act, the ACNC must review the operation of the IPS within the agency at least every five years. The ACNC will exceed this benchmark. At least every three years, the FOI Contact Officer will co-ordinate an ‘IPS Review’, which will comprise:
    1. a review of this procedure,
    2. a review of the ACNC IPS Agency Plan, and
    3. completing an IPS Self-Assessment, using the template provided by the OAIC, to identify and take steps to correct any shortfalls.
  2. An IPS Review can be also be conducted before three years has passed since the preceding review – indeed, an IPS Review should be conducted whenever it is considered necessary. If an IPS Review is conducted ahead of schedule, the three-year review cycle resets with that review.
  3. At each review, the directors will be asked to assess the documents held by their directorate against the categories of information required to be published as part of the IPS. Directors will be asked to check that:
    1. information which is published that relates to the work of their directorate is current, and
    2. new documents generated since the last IPS review that are required to be published have been forwarded to the FOI Contact Officer for consideration.
  4. Directors will also be encouraged to consider whether their directorate holds any additional documents that should be published to further the objects of the FOI Act or the ACNC Act.

Version Control

Version Date of effect Brief summary of change
Version 1 - Original document 20 March 2019

Initial OP endorsed by Assistant Commissioner (General Counsel) on 20/03/2019.

This OP replaces OP 2013/01, OP 2013/02 and OP 2015/05. Their content was combined and updated to develop this Operational Procedure, and the three other OPs have now been retired.

Version 2 – Revised Document 20 June 2022

Significant changes:

Commitment to synchronise review of this procedure, the IPS Agency Plan, and a self-assessment every three years.

Removing requirement to maintain an IPS Register as it is redundant.

Clarifying that directorates are responsible for ensuring the accuracy and currency of published information that relates to the work of their directorate.

Agency Plan removed as a standalone document, and attached to this OP as Attachment A. This will help ensure the documents are reviewed simultaneously, and that each document is consumed in reference to the other.

July 2022

Introduction

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is established by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth).

We are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act) and must comply with the requirements of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This Agency Plan has been prepared in accordance with subsection 8(1) of the FOI Act and describes how the ACNC intends to meet its IPS obligations.

We are committed to building and maintaining a pro-disclosure culture in keeping with the objects of the FOI Act, in which we manage government-held information as a national resource and seek to increase public participation in, and scrutiny of, government processes. In doing so, we demonstrate the transparency and accountability that we expect from the charities we work with.

Purpose

The purpose of this Agency Plan is to:

  • comply with section 8(1) of the FOI Act,
  • assist the ACNC in planning and developing appropriate procedures to comply with the IPS,
  • show the public what information the ACNC proposes to publish, how and to whom the information will be published, and how the ACNC will otherwise comply with the requirements of the IPS, and
  • facilitate consultation with stakeholders about the ACNC's compliance with the IPS and disclosure of information generally.

Objectives

The objective of this Agency Plan is to outline the mechanisms and procedures that the ACNC will put in place to:

  • manage its IPS entry,
  • identify and publish the information required to be published,
  • actively identify other information that can be published,
  • regularly review information published under the IPS to ensure it is accurate, up-to-date, and complete,
  • ensure that information published under the IPS is easily discoverable, understandable, accessible, and reusable,
  • meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Version 2) (WCAG 2.2),
  • measure the success of the ACNC’s IPS entry by reference to community feedback and regular review processes,
  • promote greater understanding of the objects of the FOI Act across the ACNC and encourage a pro-disclosure culture.

Establishing and administering the ACNC’s IPS entry

The FOI Contact Officer (under the supervision of the Director of Legal & Policy) is responsible for leading the agency’s work in relation to the IPS requirements. The role of the FOI Contact Officer in relation to the IPS is set out in more detail in OP 2019/01 Operational Procedure ACNC Information Publication Scheme (OP 2019/01). OP2019/01 also guides staff in identifying documents for the purposes of the IPS.

Each directorate is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the information they publish – whether the information is published under the IPS or otherwise - is accurate, up-to-date, and complete. OP 2019/01 specifies which directorate is likely to be responsible for each category of required information.

As part of the IPS Review – and intermittently outside of the review process – directors will be reminded of their responsibilities, and requested to review their directorate’s documents to ensure that: all documents published under the IPS are current and should continue to be published; the published version of documents is the current version; and any unpublished documents do not require publishing. At least every three years, the ACNC will conduct a full review of the IPS entry (including the Agency Plan) and may consult with stakeholders at this time to ensure that the IPS entry is user-friendly and contains the information that stakeholders require. This review will be conducted in accordance with OP 2019/01.

As the ACNC is a small agency, there are no specific resources allocated to maintaining the IPS. However, as outlined above, responsibility for maintaining the IPS has been allocated to various staff at the ACNC as part of their general duties. The FOI Contact Officer, under the supervision of the Director and Legal and Policy and the Assistant Commissioner General Counsel, is responsible for general oversight of the Agency Plan and meeting the agency’s IPS obligations.

Charges

As the purpose of the IPS is to make the maximum amount of information readily available at minimum inconvenience and cost to the public, the ACNC will endeavour to make information available online free of charge. The ACNC has discretion to charge for accessing an IPS document when the conditions in section 8D(4) of the FOI Act are met, but will only do so when it is reasonable in all the circumstances.

IPS Information Architecture

The ACNC plans to take the following steps to ensure that its information is easily discoverable and useable:

  • publish its IPS entry to the general community on its website in accordance with the timeline outlined below,
  • investigate opportunities to publish datasets to data.gov.au as they become available,
  • as far as possible, publish all online information in line WCAG2.2 requirements,
  • to the extent practicable, publish information in html with other formats (including printed documents) available on request,
  • to the extent practicable, publish under an open licence (usually CC-BY, the licence from the Creative Commons suite with the fewest restrictions) to encourage reuse of the ACNC's information,
  • apply AGLS Metadata (AS 5044-2010, the standard mandated for use on Australian Government websites) to online content,
  • provide a sitemap to help individuals locate information on the ACNC website,
  • investigate ways to allow individuals to receive notifications of updates, including through the use of social media and an email subscription list, and
  • encourage public comment on any aspect of the IPS site or the information published on it by providing contact details.

Information required to be published under the IPS (ss 8(2))

The ACNC will publish the information required by Part II of the FOI Act under the following headings. In some cases, the entries will consist of links to this information elsewhere on the ACNC website.

Agency Plan
  • IPS Agency Plan

Timeframe for publication: already published, revise as necessary.

Organisational Information
  • an organisation chart setting out the structure of the organisation and the lines of accountability. Information about the functions of each part of the organisation will also be provided
  • information about our leaders
  • details of appointments made under our Act – such as the appointment of our Commissioner and membership of our Advisory Board

Timeframe for publication: already published, revise as necessary.

ACNC's Role
  • details of our functions, including decision-making powers and other powers affecting members of the public
  • our annual reports
  • our operational information insofar as it extends to our exercising functions and powers in making decisions or recommendations which affect members of the public – for example, any rules, guidelines, practices or precedents relating to those decisions or recommendations

Timeframe: details of functions and powers available since commencement; annual reports to be available as soon as practicable after being tabled in Parliament; operational information published from commencement, with annual and mid-year reviews to ensure that required information is available

Routinely requested information and FOI Disclosure Log
  • information which the ACNC routinely or regularly releases in response to FOI requests
  • information which the ACNC routinely provides to Parliament in response to requests and orders
  • disclosure log of documents released in response to FOI requests

Timeframe: documents routinely released in response to FOI requests to be published as patterns of FOI requests emerge; documents routinely supplied to Parliament to be published as soon as they are tabled in Parliament; where a document is required to be published on the disclosure log, within 10 working days after the document has been released in response to an FOI request.

Contact Us
  • we will provide details for how members of the public should contact us to comment generally, or in relation to specific matters (for example, proposed changes to Commissioner’s Interpretation Statements)
  • details of officers who can be contacted about access to information or documents under the FOI Act

Timeframe: contact details available since commencement, and details of specific consultations made available as they arise.

Other Information

The ACNC will seek to identify and publish other information that may assist the public to understand our work and engage with us. This may include:

  • statistics relating to our work and our workforce,
  • information about our internal governance structures and our compliance with other Acts,
  • information about our compliance with website accessibility guidelines,
  • our corporate and strategic plans,
  • submissions that we make and receive, unless authors or recipients request confidentiality, or there are other compelling reasons (for example, privacy implications),
  • reports and research on the sector,
  • financial information relating to pay and grading structures (e.g. the current ATO Enterprise Agreement), procurement processes and contracts, and
  • memoranda of understanding (unless there are compelling reasons to maintain confidentiality)

Timeframe: This information will be published, where appropriate, as it becomes available. Regular IPS Reviews will monitor the progress of publication in this category.

IPS Compliance Review (s 9)

As set out in OP2019/01, the ACNC will conduct a full review of the IPS whenever it is considered necessary, and at least every three years. The review will ensure that all appropriate information is included and that the processes for ensuring that information is complete, accurate and up-to-date are effective, as required by section 8B of the FOI Act. At this time, the ACNC may seek feedback from stakeholders on the usability of the information architecture and whether the site provides the information that they need.

In addition, the ACNC will assist with any reviews the OAIC may conduct into the ACNC’s IPS.

The success of the IPS will also be gauged by public feedback and the volume of FOI requests for general information received.