The Ombudsman has unleashed scathing commentary over the conduct of Deputy Premier Susan Close and her department, who he says have been concocting “fanciful” and “far-fetched” excuses to avoid accountability and transparency.
In an unbelievable turn of events – and in response to Susan Close’s secrecy – the Ombudsman has overturned 14 of 15 decisions made by the Deputy Premier and her department to not release information through Freedom of Information (FOI).
“The Deputy Premier has failed to justify her proposed refusals of access,” the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman has consistently ruled against the suppression of documents and information by Lazy Susan and her department, meaning they must release these. However, Lazy Susan has ignored the Ombudsman’s rulings and has yet to provide a single document as asked – some dating back to FOIs lodged in July last year.
The Ombudsman’s criticism of Lazy Susan and her department includes statements that the reasoning for not disclosing information was “fanciful” and “far-fetched”, and that he has:
“Concerns regarding the manner in which the Deputy Premier has applied ‘out of scope’ redactions”, including that “it is far more likely that the Deputy Premier has formed the view that it would not be desirable to release various names and information and has simply opted to state they are ‘out of scope’ rather than attempt to justify a claim of exemption.”
The Ombudsman also rejected Lazy Susan’s claim she was “inundated” with FOI requests, pointing out the Deputy Premier was “dealing with a very low number” of FOI requests and that “many agencies will receive that number in only one month”.
The Ombudsman said he found it necessary to “comment on the Deputy Premier’s conduct”.
“In every case the Deputy Premier has failed to justify her proposed refusals for access…the absence of any submissions from the Deputy Premier is even more alarming when considered against the amount of time the Deputy Premier has had to deal with this matter,” he said.
“By the time the Deputy Premier was notified of my external review, she had already had in excess of four months to deal with the FOI application. Despite that substantial amount of time, the Deputy Premier took a further two months to respond to my request for documents and submissions.”
Leader of the Opposition, David Speirs, said Lazy Susan Close appears to be desperate to keep information secret from South Australians.
“Susan Close’s lazy reputation has become a serious problem for Peter Malinauskas,” Mr Speirs said.
“Lazy Susan Close either can’t be bothered doing work, is incapable of comprehending the tasks of her job, or just doesn’t care.
“Either which way, Lazy Susan Close has made the choice to defy the Ombudsman and has been ordered to come clean with her secret government documents.
“It does beg the question: what is Lazy Susan Close trying to hide?
“Without a doubt Lazy Susan Close’s behaviour is suspicious and the Ombudsman’s findings are scathing.
“When it comes to transparency and accountability, Peter Malinauskas’ government has a horrible and deceitful track record.”