If an application for access to a declaration of interest is received, the employing authority is required to consult the public sector employee who made the declaration prior to making any decision about its release.
An application for access to a declaration will be granted unless there is a specific exemption permitting refusal of access or there are circumstances where disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. There is no specific exemption for personal information.
Type of applications
Anyone can apply for access to a declaration of interest. However, in general there are two types of applications:
I want to access my own information
An individual seeking access to their personal information contained in a declaration of interest may make application under the IP Act. Because their personal information is included, it is likely that access would be granted.
I want to see the information in someone else’s declaration of interest.
You would need to make an application under the RTI Act.
The agency must determine whether disclosure of a declaration would be contrary to the public interest (RTI Act, Section 49) by considering each of the factors favouring nondisclosure in the public interest under the RTI Act, for example that disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to prejudice the protection of an individual’s right to privacy (RTI Act, Schedule 4, Part 3).
It is unlikely that it would be in the public interest to disclose to an outside party the information included in a declaration of interests completed by a public sector employee.
However, the public interest is more likely to favour disclosure if the applicant possesses evidence that would indicate that the public sector employee may have engaged in misconduct or negligent, improper or unlawful conduct.
While each application for access to a declaration of interest, under either the RTI Act or the IP Act, needs to be considered on its merits, it is considered more likely that:
- disclosure to an outside party would not be required under the RTI Act because it would be contrary to the public interest
- disclosure to a public sector employee’s partner and/or dependent would be required under the IP Act if an application was made by those persons, that is, the partner and/or dependent.