Request for contract notices for Westconnex

Wendy Bacon made this Government Information (Public Access) request to Roads and Maritime Services

The request was partially successful.

From: Wendy Bacon

Delivered

Dear Roads and Maritime Services,
GIPA officer

2. I wish to make an informal GIPA request for all contract notices for Westconnex or WDA worth more than $150,000.

In July 2014 the Westconnex Delivery Authority responded to a GIPA request from Mehreen Faruqi stating that all contracts more that 150,000 are disclosed on the E Tendering website. In fact this was mistaken as many contract notices have been unfortunately removed. I request copies of all the contracts for that reason.

2 I wish to also make an informal request for all Westconnex or WDA contracts for less than $150,000. I note that you have supplied these for 1 June 2103 to July 2014 to Mehreen Faruqi MLC. However a brief description of the nature/work/purpose for these contracts was not included in the data supplied as far as I am aware. I also request identifying numbers for these contracts and ABNS.

Can the supply of information include a digital format e.g.Excel sheets that meets standard accessibility guidelines

Yours faithfully,

Wendy Bacon
[email address]

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

It's now nearly one week since I sent this request so I am trying to ring RMS to find out what is happening. I've been told the GIPA officers are at the Grafton Licensing Branch.

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Henare Degan left an annotation ()

Transport for NSW centrally administers all information requests made to Roads and Maritime Services and some other agencies. Their site has some contact details that may help: http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/content/...

TfNSW Information and Privacy Unit
Email: information@transport.nsw.gov.au
Phone: (02) 8202 3768

Keep us up to date with how you get on.

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

Following the helpful pointer to Transport's GIPA number I rang them and was told that my request had been received.
Today I received acknowledgement and an effective refusal of my informal request for information under the GIPA Act. They have pointed out that I have not made a valid formal request which would seem to be beside the point.Transport NSW's response was sent to my gmail (I might have stupidly given them my email over the phone) but I want them to deal with me through this site. so I am about to respond to them here -
I have established that if and when I need to make formal requests I will be able to pay by credit card over the phone and email them my letters. It all seems to be very inefficient Wendy

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From: Wendy Bacon

Delivered

Dear Roads and Maritime Services,
Attention Enza Kursun Tel: Manager Transport NSW

Today I received your acknowledgement dated June 12 of my informal request for information, specifically for 1) copies of Contract Notices for Westconnex or WDA. for amounts over $150,000 2) information relating to all contracts for Westconnex or WDA that are under $150,000.

A reading of your response suggests that you have misunderstood my request. I made an informal request. Rather than dealing with my request, you have responded to me by informing me that my request is not a valid formal request.

It would seem to be that you have failed to deal with my request. It is not appropriate to point out that I have not made a valid formal request when I did not set out to make such a request. I am aware of the requirements for valid formal requests.

Your own website refers to informal requests:

http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/content/...

However it may be helpful to read the material on the Information and Privacy Commission site at http://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/informal-relea...

Informal release of information
Section 8 of the GIPA Act provides:
   (1)  An agency is authorised to release government information held by it to a person in response to an informal request by the person (that is, a request that is not an access application) unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information.
   (2)  An agency can release government information in response to an informal request subject to any reasonable conditions that the agency thinks fit to impose.
   (3)  An agency cannot be required to disclose government information pursuant to an informal request and cannot be required to consider an informal request for government information.
   (4)  An agency can decide by what means information is to be released in response to an informal request.
   (5)  An agency can facilitate public access to government information contained in a record by deleting matter from a copy of the record to be released in response to an informal request if inclusion of the matter would otherwise result in there being an overriding public interest against disclosure of the record.
   (6)  The functions of an agency under this section may only be exercised by or with the authority (given either generally or in a particular case) of the principal officer of the agency.
The discretion given to agencies under section 8 in terms of whether they release information, and the conditions they impose on release, need to be exercised in accordance with the objects of the GIPA Act as set out in section 3:
   (1)  In order to maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective, the object of this Act is to open government information to the public by:
          (a)  authorising and encouraging the proactive public release of government information by agencies, and
          (b)  giving members of the public an enforceable right to access government information, and
          (c)  providing that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
(2)   It is the intention of Parliament:
          (a)  that this Act be interpreted and applied so as to further the object of this Act, and
          (b)  that the discretions conferred by this Act be exercised, as far as possible, so as to facilitate and encourage, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost, access to government information.
What does informal mean?
Informal release will occur when an agency gives out information in response to a request, without requiring the person requesting it to lodge a formal application under Part 4 of the GIPA Act.
Section 8 removes the red tape from disclosing information, and can be applied and interpreted flexibly. Agencies can decide how information is released: by phone, email, letter, fax, or in person. Most agencies already release information in this way. This practice will not change, and is indeed encouraged, under the GIPA Act. However, agencies may now choose to release additional information informally, that previously might have required a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (FOI Act).
Informal release is not limited to particular documents or types of information.

As I explained in my application, there are strong public interest grounds for releasing this information informally. While you are entitled to refuse my request, you must act responsibly to enable the objects of the Act. In fact, if you do not, you are causing public servants and members of the public to be caught up in unnecessary work and inefficient technicalities.

There is a long tradition in public administration for the publication of government contracts as a minimal requirement for public accountability. To reiterate and perhaps clarify my request for information:

1. All the contract notices for amounts more than $150,000 have previously been in the public arena. I am asking for copies of these. As these contract notices were in electronic form I assume they can be easily accessed. I have pointed out to you an error in an earlier response to Mehreen Faruqi MLC in July 2014. In fact, contrary to Ms Faruqi she was told, some contract notices have been removed, However, I cannot think of any public interest argument as to why this information should not be easily available and supplied to me and other members of the public on an informal basis.

2. Regarding the second group of contract notices, which are below $150,000. Mehreen Faruqi MLC was previously given a list of these contracts for the period up July 2014. So they can surely be supplied to me for the remaining period since a ruling has already been made on that issue. I note in my request that the information provided to her was not complete for the contracts and have requested ABNs for contractors and a brief description of the nature and purpose of the contracts as set out in contract notices for all Westconnex or WDA contracts for more than $150,000. However if this will take longer, I would be happy to have access to 1) before 2).

In considering this response please refer back to my original request. I am prepared to accept the material in any form as this matter is an urgent one from my point of view.

Can you please use this email address for any further communication.

I was relieved to be informed that should I make any formal requests in the future and if a $30 deposit is required, I can supply details over the phone rather than dealing with cheques or postal orders, which would seem very outdated.

Also I wanted to know whether as a retired senior citizen who is not engaged in paid work, my fee for any future formal requests will be waived,

I hope that I can now expect a speedy response to my informal requests,

Yours faithfully,

Wendy Bacon

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From: Kington, Mary
Roads and Maritime Services


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Dear Ms Bacon

 

I refer to your most recent email received by Transport for NSW (TfNSW)
dated 15 June 2015 in which you referred to an informal request you had
previously made for information relating to Westconnex contracts.

 

You stated that you had received a letter from TfNSW to advise that your
request for information had been treated as an invalid access application,
which was not your intention.  I apologise for this inadvertent error, and
any inconvenience it has caused you.

 

Wherever possible, TfNSW tries to deal with requests for information from
members of the public on an informal basis.  TfNSW receives requests for
information on behalf of all agencies within the transport cluster, and
forwards each request to the appropriate agency for processing.  Your
request has now been forwarded to Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), who
will liaise with the Westconnex Delivery Office to respond to your
request.

 

To confirm, you are seeking the following information:

 

1.       All the contract notices for amounts more than $150,000 have
previously been in the public arena. I am asking for copies of these. As
these contract notices were in electronic form I assume they can be easily
accessed. I have pointed out to you an error in an earlier response to
Mehreen Faruqi MLC in July 2014. In fact, contrary to Ms Faruqi she was
told, some contract notices have been removed, However, I cannot think of
any public interest argument as to why this information should not be
easily available and supplied to me and other members of the public on an
informal basis. 

2.       Regarding the second group of contract notices, which are below
$150,000. Mehreen Faruqi MLC was previously given a list of these
contracts for the period up July 2014. So they can surely be supplied to
me for the remaining period since a ruling has already been made on that
issue. I note in my request that the information provided to her was not
complete for the contracts and have requested ABNs for contractors and a
brief description of the nature and purpose of the contracts as set out in
contract notices for all Westconnex or WDA contracts for more  than
$150,000. However if this will take longer, I would be happy to have
access to 1) before 2). 

 

RMS will be in touch with you shortly to provide you with a contact person
should you wish to discuss any aspect of your request.  In the meantime,
please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you wish to discuss this
matter further.

 

Kind regards

 

Mary Kington
A/Senior Advisor – Access Applications

Information, Corporate Policy and Investigations

People and Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

 

T 02 8202 3258 | F 02 8202 2494 |
Upper Ground, 18 Lee Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

  
[1]Transport for NSW logo

 

Use public transport... plan your trip at [2]transportnsw.info

Get on board with Opal at [3]opal.com.au

 

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

My request was sent through by the Department of Transport to RMS who sent it through to WDA who have just decided to set up an Information Officer to deal with their own GIPA requests. I just got to talk to Alison Macris. She works Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
She has talked to others at WDA including the person who is in charge of the database containing the information. Their view is that they would have to hire a data miner for day or two to access the information I want from the data base. I was surprised to hear it would take so long. So they have decided that I must put in a formal request which I will do. I have asked them to put this and their reasons in writing to me so this should come through soon. After I have received that I will put in the formal request. I have also asked them to confirm that as with Department of Transport I can use a credit card to pay the $30 fee.

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

On July 2 I got this email to my personal email. This followed a conversation with Alison Macris. What she told me was pretty much the same as the information below. I am now going to make a formal request. It sounds like they will comply with a formal request but that they are going to charge me for the time.
Surely they should have information like contracts which are supposed to be transparent in an easily accessible format.
Wendy Bacon

Dear Ms Bacon

Thank you for your phone messages yesterday afternoon and earlier this morning. I confirm we are in receipt of your informal request for information under the Government Information (Public Access) (GIPA) Act 2009 regarding WestConnex contract notices.

I have had discussions with the relevant WestConnex staff who would be involved in collecting the information you have requested. To extract and collate the information which has not previously been released to Dr Mehreen Faruqi (in a previous GIPA application), we would need to commit a dedicated resource over a number of days. As such, I would appreciate you submitting a formal GIPA application so we can action your request and assign resources.

Kind Regards

Alison Macris

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

Later in the day, I received another email from WDA which said
Wendy,

Further to our conversation this morning, I would like to confirm you should continue to lodge any GIPA applications for WestConnex with Transport for NSW. They will receive payment and acknowledge your application on our behalf.

WestConnex will then process and respond to the application.

Kind Regards
Alison Macris

This is odd because I had been told to deal with WDA. So my formal request will go into Department of Transport and then be routed through to Alison who will deal with it. I emailed back to say that this was confusing but received no response

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From: Informationmanager
Roads and Maritime Services


Attachment New Request for Information Government Information Public Access request Request for Westconnex contracts.txt
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Dear Ms Bacon

 

I refer to your attached email which was sent to Sydney Trains on 9 July
2015.  In that email you have indicated that you wish to make an access
application for information regarding “all contracts let by
WestConnex...aside from Class 3 contracts.”

 

There are a number of formal requirements for access applications.  An
access application must:

 

1.       Be in writing and sent to the following address:

Information and Privacy Unit
Transport for NSW
PO Box K659
Haymarket NSW 1240

2.       Clearly indicate that you are requesting information under the
Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009

3.       Include a $30 application fee – cheque or money order only, made
payable to Transport for NSW

4.       Provide a return postal address in Australia as the address for
correspondence

5.       Include as much specific information as necessary to enable us to
identify the information you are seeking

 

Once you meet the formal application requirements, your application will
be accepted by Transport for NSW and then forwarded to WestConnex for
processing.

 

Based on the information you have provided in the attached email, you
still need to provide the following information in order for your
application to be accepted as valid:

 

·         Include a $30 application fee – we cannot accept your credit
card details to pay this fee, because your application will be processed
by WestConnex, which does not yet have this facility.

·         Provide a return postal address in Australia – even though you
have requested that any information which may be provided to you should be
in digital form, a return postal address in Australia is mandatory in
order for your application to be valid.

 

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact
the Transport for NSW Information and Privacy Unit via email or phone as
follows:

 

Email: [1][email address]

Phone: (02) 8202 3768

 

Kind regards

Information Manager

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

I have now supplied all the information required by post to Transport NSW. For anyone wishing to send in any request for GIPA to any division or agency of Transport NSW, this is the correct email and phone number

information@transport.nsw.gov.au

82023768

I now assume that Alison Macris at Westconnex Delivery Authority has my request and will promptly process it. I would like to stress that the information I am seeking would be publicly available on the tender.gov database if this was a Federal matter. The reason contracts are published is that there is a basic and long developed principle of government accountability that you should be able to find out who is getting public money, whether it is an open tender and some basic information about what it will be spent on. You can trace this history back to the old printed government gazettes. This is why as the Object of the Act is to facilitate the provision of information, I applied for it through an informal request in the first place. Some reform is needed here .

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From: Information
Roads and Maritime Services


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Attachment 000000 signed ack.pdf
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Attachment IPC Facts Sheet.pdf
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Hi Good Morning Ms Bacon

 

Please find attached a copy of your acknowledgement letter for your recent
Access Application made to the Transport for NSW Agency

 

 

 

Kind Regards,

 

Information & Privacy

People and Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

 

T 8202 3768 | F 8202 3592

PO Box K659

NSW 1240

 

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01CF70F6.50D4C1E0

 

Use public transport... plan your trip at [2]transportnsw.info

Get on board with Opal at [3]opal.com.au

 

 

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

Last night I got an email from the WDA admin account ( Alison Macris)

Wendy,

Further to your phone message this morning, I can confirm we received your application on 14 July 2015.

The request for information was clear and no clarification is required at this time.

We have estimated the time to retrieve the information requested at 16 hours for one resource.

While it will not cover the cost to WDA of retrieving the information, a charge of $30 per hour will be charged for processing as provided for in the GIPA Act. The total estimate will therefore be $480.

Notice of Advance Deposit (as required under Sec 68(3) GIPA Act)
- WDA will not be charging for any work already undertaken in dealing with this application.

- The estimated processing charge for work expected to be required to be undertaken in dealing with the application is $480.

- To allow WDA to commence retrieval of the information, we request a 50% advance deposit of $240, payable by 13 August 2015. This can be paid by cheque or money order made out to ‘WestConnex Delivery Authority’ or by direct deposit to: BSB 032001 Account 175183 – please include your surname and ‘GIPA’ in the description.

- If the deposit is not received by this date, WDA may refuse to deal further with the application.

Kind Regards
Alison Macris

.

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

This situation shows one of the frustrations of NSW GIPA. The charges are very steep, especially given this information should be in the public arena anyway. I know this is a lot of money, but I have reluctantly paid the deposit as I really want to get this GIPA moving.I believe people should be aware of how much money is being paid and to whom, espcially when there is no EIS or published business case for the Westconnex projects at this time.
Also because the formal dealings are with Transport NSW, only those replies get sent directly to Right to Know. Alison Macris keeps replying to me personal email. Right to Know - is there any way that this could be fixed or by which I could clarify

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Henare Degan left an annotation ()

>Also because the formal dealings are with Transport NSW, only those replies get sent directly to Right to Know. Alison Macris keeps replying to me personal email. Right to Know - is there any way that this could be fixed or by which I could clarify

Hi Wendy,

From time to time authorities respond to peoples' personal email if they have it on file (we don't disclose your email to the authority).

To keep the exchange in public on Right To Know for everyone to see and learn from, the authority should reply to the email they were sent by you via Right To Know. It is a unique @righttoknow.org.au address for emails about this request. Please contact us if you'd like me to provide this to you so you can pass it on to the authority and ask them to use that address only for future emails about this request.

Thank you for posting their correspondence as annotations so everyone can benefit from this request!

Cheers,

Henare
Right To Know administrator

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

I have just received this email from WDA Admin

Wendy,

I confirm we received your advance deposit of $240 on 17 July, 2015 and have commenced collating the information requested.

Under Section 68(2) of the GIPA Act, the decision period stops running between the decision to require an advance deposit and the deposit being received. This time period was one day, so the new due date for determining your application is 12 August, 2015.

The decision will be sent to you by this date. The information will be released in PDF format.

The remaining processing fee of $240 will be required prior to the information being released. If the information will be available prior to the 12 August, 2015 due date, I will contact you requesting the remaining processing fee be deposited. Otherwise, we request the remaining processing fee be received by 11 August to allow the information to be released by 12 August.

Alison Macris

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

On July 23, I wrote this email to Alison Macris at the WDA "Dear Alison
Its good to know that processing has begun.
Thanks.
However I am sure that I requested the information in digital form? I made this very clear I think.
Please therefore explain the reference to the PDF?
Why would it come in PDF form?
Who has advised on this?
Please respond to this as soon as you can "

I RECEIVED NO RESPONSE
Regards

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

I'm not aware of having received a response to that email, so on August 5 I sent this

Dear Alison
I am concerned that you have not responded to my email. I made it clear that I wanted the information in digital form. Why did you say PDF? Please tell me also with the final deposit is due as I have to fund raise for that as I am a senior citizen not in the paid workforce.
It's now 13 days since I sent my last email. I would really appreciate it if you could respond
I will collect the information when it is ready as the matter is an urgent one
Regards
Wendy Bacon

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

By this morning,I was not aware of having received a response to my email. This morning the Westconnex Action Group of which I am a member held a cake stall outside the RMS and Westconnex Delivery Authority building to raise money for the other $240 that I will need to pay.

https://www.facebook.com/westconnexactio...

I also left an phone message for Alison Macris telling her that I want the information in digital form (eg excel spreadsheet). I'll let following of this page know what happens next.

Wendy

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

I apologise to all who are interested in this issue that it has taken me so long to report on progress for this request. The Westconnex Delivery Authority has now been dissolved leaving RMS with some functions and the Sydney Motorway Corporation with others.

On 12 August, I received a letter from Bill Hartnell of WDA informing me of the decision. The decision was to grant me access to Westconnex contracts above 150,000 that had been published on the tenders.nsw.gov.au database but had been taken down as allowed for in NSW law. I already had the ones published after April 2015 on the tenders.nsw.gov.au. I was given a copy of the contracts between $25,000 and $150,000 that had already been granted to MLC Mehreen Faruqi but I was denied the contracts between $25,000 and $150,000 for the later period.

The reason given for the refusal was that revealing the information a) could reveal personal information and b) that third party consultations would be too time consuming. This is not satisfactory but for reasons regarding the amount of other work I have to do, I decided not to pursue the issue at this time. This highlights how there is a level of transparency with Federal contracts ( e.g. smaller ones are reported on tenders.gov.au and all contracts are left available permanently) that does not exist at a NSW level. This specific case also highlights the huge lack of transparency with Westconnex.
Luke Bacon has created a website which includes all the information obtained by GIPA for contracts above $150,000 plus all the contracts that have been available since April. Some of these contracts are already being disappeared but this project does mean that the public has some access to information about them afterwards. http://whywestconnex.herokuapp.com/ . The site will continue to scrape the contracts that are published.

We also found that the information lacked clarify - some contracts appeared to double up between RMS and WDA and we could not be sure that Westconnex is not hider costs and contracts through other means. This again demonstrates the worrying lack of financial accountability and transparency with the Westconnex.tollway.

When I can upload the PDF information onto the web, I will link to the actual documents received. One of the other problems I experienced was the refusal of the WDA to deal with me through this website. Again this is not in the interests of transparency.

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Wendy Bacon left an annotation ()

file:///Users/wendybacon/Documents/westconnex%20GIPA/GRT%20Ref%20000000-%20Decision%20(2)%20(1).pdf

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Roads and Maritime Services only: