No Right Turn’s OIA study

August 31st, 2010 at 12:07 pm by David Farrar

NZPA have done a story, based on No Right Turn’s OIA study. This is a good example of how blogs can do good quality research and get stories into the media based on their worth:

Nearly all ministers fail to supply information requested under the Official Information Act () in the required time, a study by a blogsite has found.

Idiot/Savant of , a left-wing blogsite, gathered information using the Act over the past three months on how requests for information were handled.

The fastest answering ministers were: Chris Finlayson (who is Attorney-General, and has responsibility for Treaty negotiations and arts) who answered all requests within the 20 working day deadline and Maurice Williamson (a minister outside Cabinet responsible for a range of portfolios including building, customs and statistics) who answered 96.1 percent on time.

The slowest were:

* Gerry Brownlee (energy, economic development, leader of the house) — 39.7 percent on-time.

* Judith Collins (police, corrections, veterans’s affairs) — 48.3 percent.

* Tim Groser (trade, climate change negotiations) and Jonathan Coleman (immigration, broadcasting, tourism) — 50 percent.

* Kate Wilkinson (labour, conservation, food safety) — 52.3 percent.

* Phil Heatley (fisheries, housing) –54.2 percent.

* Paula Bennett (social development and employment, youth affairs) refused to cooperate with the survey.

The blogger said it was appalling that ministers were not ensuring they met the legal time limit.

Hopefully the sunlight will encourage more Ministers to meet the deadlines in future. They are a deadline – not a target.

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42 Responses to “No Right Turn’s OIA study”

  1. Guy Fawkes (702 comments) says:

    Do hope that we are not expecting our paid servants to be accountable to us.
    Heavens to Murgatroyd.

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  2. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    Paula Bennett (social development and employment, youth affairs) refused to cooperate with the survey.

    Nah on second thought, anything I could say about the performance of this dimmest of dim bulbs in yet another task we pay her to perform would be superfluous. The story says it all.

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  3. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Didn’t occur to them to do this study during Dear Leaders time then?

    That would be the person singles out by the ombudsman as being the worst offender for using the OIA as a shield to deny information.

    Nope, better target those evil conservatives.

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  4. Viking2 (11,467 comments) says:

    Maybe someone should nudge the results over the bosses table so he can do a bit of a sort out of the hopeless and curryup the lazy.
    Seems to be some of each there.

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  5. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    At big Gerry’s old school in CHCH , they are still talking about how dishonest and lazy he was.

    [DPF: 20 demerits]

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  6. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    Nothing said about performance of Ministers in the former Labour Government. I think they had OIA evasion down to a pure art form. How can National be to blame if Paula learned bad habits off Labour ministers.

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  7. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    See the ombudsmans report for that one peterwyn. Chilling reading.

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  8. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    Murray, peterwn, stop living in the past. Yoúr lot are in governemnt now and are proving themselves to be full of lies and deceit. You won, eat shit.

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  9. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    But league tables are bad, DPF…

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  10. Repton (769 comments) says:

    I find it interesting that the reponse to evidence of National ministers breaking the law is “Well, I bet Labour did it too!”.

    Is that the standard you hold the National government to? “Are they significantly worse than Labour? No? Well, they’re doing OK then.”

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  11. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    They get away with this for two reasons: firstly, there are no legal penalties for ignoring the OIA. They are not fined or censured for late requests,

    A point. That’s how they get away with it. Doesn’t matter what party is/was doing it, if we get some change that will have an effect for years to come then NZ will be the winner.

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  12. Sarkozygroupie (207 comments) says:

    Actually as many of you leftwingers will know, and are carefully avoiding, is the fact the officials in departments, receive, process and collate OIA responses on behalf of their Minister’s. Minister’s don’t directly respond to OIA’s. If they are answering on time it is because their officials are answering on time. If officials are dragging the chain, and many do given the left-wing politicization of the public service over the past ten years, they need a hard boot from their Ministers. A worthy piece of research fron I/S, if not a boring one.

    On a more interesting note, there is quite a bit of discussion around town about the alleged performance measures Labour is using to assess it’s MPs at performance review time. One alleged performance measure is that they must have asked a certain number of written and oral parliamentary questions. The target is in the hundreds, and it’s tying up departments resources to ridiculous degrees. Perhaps this is having an effect on officials being able to answer OIA’s on time.

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  13. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,069 comments) says:

    Sarkozygroupie – why would these problems allow the AG/Treaties Minister and the Building and Statistics Ministers to meet the deadline almost 100% of the time, while the Energy Minister only meets it 40% of the time?

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  14. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    Danyl, maybe because the dimbulbs from the left have forgotten to target them with thousands of mindless OIA questions.

    What a pathetic attempt at disruption.

    My recommendation is that the OIA regulations be amended to push the deadline out to six months. Oh, was that the average under Clark and Cullen’s tutelage? Well that’s fine then.

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  15. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    1. No ifs, no buts. Ministers should answer questions on time. Who did or didn’t in the past, who is asking inane questions, all irrelevant. Doing their job means answering on time.

    2. Be interested to see how many questions each were asked – and whether those who answer on time are doing so due to lower volume, or due to better process

    3. If a Minister needs to hire more staff to deal with volumes, then publicise that fact, who is asking them, and what sort of questions they are. Then hire the staff. If the public see those questions as valuable, no issue. If the public think that some segments of society are wasting government money, then the public has a remedy.

    4. Maybe part of the problem is the desire to hide stuff. I.e. getting your department to just answer truthfully probably takes very little time, getting them to massage data to try to make you look good probably takes lots longer, and takes involvement from the Minister’s office. Maybe there is an answer in there…..

    5. Yes, quite interesting that there is now an interest from some on the left in the time taken by Ministers for answering things, Labour were notorious for delaying these. Not that it makes it right for National to do it too, but it would make it hypocritical if any Labour MPs started complaining.

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  16. IdiotSavant (88 comments) says:

    Sarkozygroupie: Minister’s don’t directly respond to OIA’s. If they are answering on time it is because their officials are answering on time.

    Bzzt! Wrong! But thankyou for playing.

    If you check Departmental annual reports and statements of intent, as I did as background for this project, you’ll see that every department has a 15 working day target for answering “Ministerials”, including forwarded OIA requests. They have a 95% or 100% performance standard on that target, and those reports show that they meet it. So, the problem lies with Ministers, not with Departments.

    I may dig further into this; many of the spreadsheets provided include useful data on the internal process used by Ministerial offices: not just received and sent dates, but also when it was sent to the Ministry, when it was sent back, when it was seen by Ministerial advisors etc, whether the Minister was unhappy with the response and sent it back down again (which means the Ministry gets another 15 days, but the overall 20 day OIA timeline applies) etc. With some Ministers, I will be able to point the finger and say “here is your roadblock”. With others, it is simply because they are dumbshits. Tim Groser, for example, is late because he is always out of the country, and too much of a control-freak to delegate release authority in his absence (meaning: he organises his affairs to break the law). Judith Collins appears not to have heard of the ability to extend requests, and has never used it – she just lets things get late, and screw the law. These Ministers are failing to do their jobs properly, and we shouldn’t make excuses for them. Instead, we should tell them to shape up or ship out.

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  17. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,069 comments) says:

    Danyl, maybe because the dimbulbs from the left have forgotten to target them with thousands of mindless OIA questions.

    Not that you care about anything that ever happens back on Earth, but according to I/S, Williamson recieved 92 requests with a 96% response time, Groser recieved 48 requests with a 50% response time.

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  18. joe90 (273 comments) says:

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2010/04/i_love_the_oia.html

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  19. IdiotSavant (88 comments) says:

    Danyl, maybe because the dimbulbs from the left have forgotten to target them with thousands of mindless OIA questions.

    While Finalyson and Williamson are at the low end of total requests, the next best Minister – John Key – is at the top end of the table, and maanges a 91.8% on-time rate (not perfect, not good enough, but his clowns make him look good). More importantly, the Ministry of Justice receives over 1800 requests a year, anaswers 97.7% of them on time with a median response time of 5 working days. So, its not about traffic, but the willingness of Minsiters to answer.

    As for Labour: I don’t have their stats, but I do not doubt they would show a similar pattern of non-compliance. That was unacceptable then, and its unacceptable now. And one of the reasons I’m doign this project is to make it clear to all Ministers, now and in the future, whatever their political stripe, that their failures on this front will be publicised. if they want to avoid bad PR, they need to perform better. It is that simple.

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  20. IdiotSavant (88 comments) says:

    PaulL: quite interesting that there is now an interest from some on the left in the time taken by Ministers for answering things

    There’s a simple answer to that: the Act is being reviewed by the Law Commission ATM, which has encouraged me to think about it. Plus, I only heard about the work of the Canadian Information Commissioner on this front this year.

    If anyone wants to compile similar stats on Labour Ministers, or if the government does it (as they did for credit card spending), then I say “bring it on”. The public benefits can only benefit from such information, and it will help us make better judgements about who we want to be Ministers.

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  21. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    My recommendation is that the OIA regulations be amended to push the deadline out to six months. Oh, was that the average under Clark and Cullen’s tutelage? Well that’s fine then.

    How laughably partisan. Only the left use the OIA anyway though right?

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  22. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    IdiotSavant – Be good to see your analysis of this for the last Labour government. Or will we have to wait 15 years until you can do that on the next Labour government.

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  23. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    I/S: To be clear, I think this is good work, and I totally agree that these should be answered on time. I’m a bit more relaxed with numbers like 91.8% on-time, there is no government process that consistently reaches 100% on-time, some questions are harder than others. I’m not relaxed about 40% on-time or numbers thereabouts.

    On the left/right thing, I was pointing out that something like this is inevitably partisan. It’s unlikely (although conceivable) that DPF would kick off something like this on a National govt, where he would be more likely on Labour. Conversely, it was less likely you’d do this on Labour, more on National. That isn’t necessarily bad or hypocritical, it’s just the nature of politics.

    My point was that if Labour politicians jump on this bandwagon, I’d find that a bit hypocritical, at least in the first term. And on the flip side, if National do nothing about this having complained about the same thing when in opposition, that would be hypocritical. Ideally for me, National fix this, and then take the moral high ground – Labour are hypocritical for complaining, and we did something about it when we were in power.

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  24. IdiotSavant (88 comments) says:

    some questions are harder than others

    Hard questions can, and should be, extended. Accidents will still happen – I’ve lost paperwork as part of this project – but I’d expect them to be rare.

    Ideally for me, National fix this, and then take the moral high ground

    I don’t care who does it; I just want it fixed and requests answered on time (and then someone else can go look at the quality of answers, which is a whole different ballgame again).

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  25. dave (988 comments) says:

    To be clear, I think this is good work, and I totally agree that these should be answered on time.

    That depends what ” on time” means. You imply there is a 20 working day deadline. There isn’t.

    The deadline is “as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 20 working days after the day on which the request is received”. This does not mean that they have 20 working days to do it, it means they MUST do it within this time and MUST respond earlier if it is reasonable practicable.

    If I/S could provide evidence that those who respond within the 20 days are not doing so as soon as reasonably practicable, he would have more to say, I`m sure.

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  26. david (2,557 comments) says:

    Hey I/S, isn’t it fun interacting in blogspace and effectively using a comments facility?

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  27. Inventory2 (10,337 comments) says:

    @ David – I suspect that the irony of that comment will be lost on its intended recipient ;-)

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  28. IdiotSavant (88 comments) says:

    If I/S could provide evidence that those who respond within the 20 days are not doing so as soon as reasonably practicable, he would have more to say, I`m sure.

    A great deal more. But that’s a lot harder to find out than just whether they are missing the statutory deadline, and probably requires someone inside an agency.

    Still, the process info may shed some light. And if I find Ministers are getting response back in a day or two from their ministries, then sitting on them until 20 days are up, I will publicise it.

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  29. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    I would point out that Idiot has been reasonably consistent in this regard with both Labour and National.
    http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2005/11/not-acceptable.html

    I would also point out that Labour had it’s share of criticism.
    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2005/11/ministers_subverting_democracy.html
    “We feel that holders of official information need to be reminded that by denying citizens access to information they are in fact denying those same citizens their right to participate in democratic processes.””

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  30. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    One more comment – It would be interesting to see if/how his study compares to this one (under Labour).

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2005/11/oia_study.html

    It looks to my cursory glance that things may be worse – which is simply not good enough.

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  31. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Jackboot, get fucked and eat shit yourself. It will be a cold day in hell before I stop reminding people that you and your kind are hypocrites and we had a decade of the single most corrupt government in our history. You also spent the entire time blaming the previous government for everything so shove it up you ass when it turns back and bites you.

    You give scum a bad name.

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  32. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    jesusinasynagogue Murray, get a fucking grip.

    Are you saying because I criticised the last government I cannot criticise this one? Well, unlike you, I am prepared to criticise and praise as and when due. Its better that way, but then, you’re just a dried up rusted on Nationalfacist voter, aren’t you?

    I reckin you and Adolf Netanyahoo would be great mates.

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  33. James (1,338 comments) says:

    Not that you care about anything that ever happens back on Earth, but according to I/S, Williamson recieved 92 requests with a 96% response time, Groser recieved 48 requests with a 50% response time.

    Anyone considered how busy these ministers are…? I think Groser would be far busier than old Williamson…

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  34. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    As someone who had made OIA requests for information I would comment that Govt. Dept’s and the Ministers in charge of them need to get their frigging acts together.

    I also imagine that Farrars idea that all information is automatically released via (dare I say it, gag) a Govt. 2.0 model would ensure efficient distribution of public information.

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  35. Clint Heine (1,570 comments) says:

    Anything Malcolm Harbrow/Idiot Savant says should be viewed very suspiciously. After all, he would be one of the first to complain about teachers and schools being ranked for their effectiveness and yet wants us all to be outraged about ministers rankings on OIA effectiveness….

    He is a class A hypocrite.

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  36. Jim (398 comments) says:

    Graeme Edgeler and Clint Heine: very good points.

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  37. Jim (398 comments) says:

    ‘scuse the double post, but Clint has me thinking. Over the past 5-7 years I have commented on, and emailed, various NZ bloggers with questions on specifics/technicalities of their blog posts (including this blog, Public Address, NRT, The Standard, TVHE, and others). When I’m asking a question I am always polite and to the point.

    With one notable exception I always received a personal response (all responses polite and friendly btw). Guess which one never answers. Rhymes with No Light Burns.

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  38. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    “Anyone considered how busy these ministers are…? I think Groser would be far busier than old Williamson…”

    OIA requests are completed by staff not by Ministers. The Minister is responsible for ensuring their office and departmental staff respond in accordance with the rules. Being busy isnt an excuse – this is as much part of their job as attending Cabinet meetings.

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  39. Scott (1,797 comments) says:

    Can’t get too excited about the story. I appreciate for DPF and others that bureaucratic compliance is absolutely vital. But that Paula Bennett and her staff don’t answer every official information act question on time it is not a train smash as far as I’m concerned.

    I actually think Paula Bennett is a breath of fresh air and has a commonsense approach to welfare which is a refreshing change from the previous regime. That she refuses to comply with some leftist bloggers survey is also a plus in my book.

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  40. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    That she refuses to comply with some leftist bloggers survey is also a plus in my book.

    Her office is not complying with NZ’s existing rules (legislation?) for complying with OIA requests. This is bad for everyone. NRT simply used publicly available information for the ‘survey’.

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  41. wikiriwhis business (3,996 comments) says:

    Scott,

    What Paula ‘benefitted’ Bennet is doing with education is so hypocritical her name is next to the word in the dictionary.

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