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auDA’s Daily Calamity Update: CEO Defends Lack of Accountability and Transparency

It’s turning out to be an almost daily update on the calamities of auDA, the .au regulatory and policy body. It could be amusing, and frustrating for those involved, if it weren’t that auDA was a key player in such a critical piece of Australia’s infrastructure. Today’s update is that they claim they should be compared to the ABC, Australia’s version of the BBC, and the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific body.

“Huh?” I hear you ask. Well me too. The man behind, Ned O’Meara, wrote to auDA’s CEO Cameron Boardman questioning the recent disappearance of key documents, and questioning the commitment to improving communication and transparency as outlined at the 2016 annual general meeting last November.

Both Stuart Benjamin, auDA Chair, and Boardman had promised that communication and transparency would improve.

While some of the documents, such as annual reports, have returned with “human error” blamed, there are still documents missing. In an obvious thumb of the nose at the commitment to accountability and transparency, the Board resolved at its 13 February board meeting to “cease publishing Board Meeting Agendas and Minutes and remove historical Board Meeting documents from the public website in order to comply with good governance practices.”

One could easily ask how good governance can come about when a member driven organisation purposely make it hard to find out what is going on?

And then the comparison by Boardman of auDA to 2 of Australia’s leading public sector corporations – the ABC and CSIRO. But hang on a minute. auDA is not a public sector organisation. It’s a not for profit with members. While there are no doubt like organisations in Australia, none have such a direct impact on critical infrastructure like auDA does. Comparisons with other member-driven country code top level domains (ccTLDs) would be more accurate.

Organisations like the ABC and CSIRO are accountable according to legislation. For example the CSIRO is a government body that was formed under the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 and subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The legislation has an accountability standard and particularly under section 29, an official needs to declare their personal interests.

The relevant section, 10F, on “Disclosure of interests” reads:

  1. The Chief Executive shall give written notice to the Board of all direct or indirect pecuniary interests that the Chief Executive has or may have in any business or in any body corporate carrying on a business.
  2. Subsection (1) applies in addition to section 29 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (which deals with the duty to disclose interests).

* Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to AusRegistry proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.