A Freedom Of Information request for the travel expenses of Barnaby Joyce’s former staffer and current partner has been denied on the grounds it would undermined an independent investigation, and the “expectation and risk” of the information being “misinterpreted and misrepresented”.
More than four weeks ago, The Leader lodged an FOI request seeking Vikki Campion’s travel records for the first quarter of 2017, to investigate whether public funds were misused while she worked for Mr Joyce, who she is now in a relationship with.
In the response from the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority – the body in charge of monitoring parliamentary travel expenses – branch manager Petra Gartmann wrote she was “of the view” that disclosing the documents would be “widely published” and would “generate public discussion, including on social media”.
Ms Gartmann said the benefit of informing public debate was outweighed by the documents’ potential to compromise the organisation’s audit.
“[Releasing the documents] could reasonably raise public expectations that this audit will lead to certain findings,” Ms Gartmann wrote.
“This then has the potential to lead to public and political pressure, undermine IPEA's independence and ultimately render the audit worthless if the findings fail to meet public expectations.
“Also, in order to afford audit subjects procedural fairness, any adverse findings and gaps in available information are required to be put to the audit subject before information is published.”
The Leader also sent an FOI request to Mr Joyce’s office, asking for his diary of event and meeting locations for the first three months of 2017.
However, his office is yet to respond.