SALN guidelines not exactly equal to Australia’s FOI

In Australia, we have the Commonwealth government‘s Freedom of Information (FOI) and the NSW State government’s Government Information Public Access (GIPA) law which allows the public particularly the press to access any government documents for public disclosure. The new OMB guidelines on getting SLAN documents of government employees while much better than before are still not comparable to the access given in Australia under these laws. Here. my understanding is almost nothing cannot be accessed for as long as the requestor will pay for the cost of the paper and labour cost of providing the information. In addition, in each NSW State agency, there is a designated GIPA officer from whom information can be requested. The OMB’s approach tends to focus on providing information conditional on the background of requestor and his motive rather than the need of providing universal access to any or all documents that would be available.

Ombudsman relaxes SALN guidelines

Tuesday, 18 September 2012 20:35 Zaff Solmerin / Correspondent

OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio-Morales has issued new guidelines on public access to Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs) on file with her office.

The new SALN guidelines shall take effect on October 15.

Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan, Ombudsman spokesman and chairman of the Ombudsman’s Committee on Internal Rules, said the new SALN guidelines change the philosophy of “everything is secret unless allowed” to “everything is open unless restricted.”

Assistant Ombudsman Evelyn Baliton said that unlike the old rules, which identified only three types of SALN request purposes (press report, student research and  court subpoena), the new rules provide that all requests for copies of SALNs shall be granted, subject only to exceptions provided by law or jurisprudence, like when:

The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) is not the official repository of the requested SALN;

The requested SALN is not on file or in actual possession of the office;

The purpose of the request is contrary to law, morals or public policy;

The request is for any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public;

The request is prompted by sheer idle curiosity;

The identity of the requesting party appears to be fictitious;

The requester has a derogatory records of having misused any information previously furnished; and

There are grounds to believe that the request is being made with a plainly discernible improper motive (e.g., harassment) or other analogous circumstances.

The new rules also enumerate the different Ombudsman offices where a person should request copies of SALN of listed public officers and employees, as differentiated from those that are obtainable from, for instance, the Civil Service Commission or the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court as official repositories of other SALNs.

The OMB, meanwhile, scored high marks in the second semester 2012 Executive Outlook Survey on perception of government performance conducted by the Makati Business Club (MBC) from June 19 to July 23.

The office moved 26 notch higher to 18th place this year from 44th place during the same period last year. The MBC report said the OMB is one of the government offices under the Aquino administration that garnered the highest point of increase in perception rate, second only to the Department of Tourism.

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