Chief Ombudsman to review OIA compliance

The Herald reports:

The Chief will launch an investigation into the way the Official Information Act is being used after the election and will include a probe into ministerial offices as part of the inquiry. …

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem said issues which would be examined included government departments having to seek “sign off” from their ministers before releasing information when there was no reason to do so.

She said there was “excessive reference upwards for approval” to release information when there was no good reason for doing so. …

“I have observed unnecessary steps and referrals upwards. I have heard of at least five layers of approval before something can be released. That’s absurd.”

She said the unnecessary upwards delays included referrals to ministers for approval to release information. There were also offices which had “delayed things beyond what is reasonable” while others did “incredibly well”.

“There’s actually fundamentally nothing wrong with the Act. What is wrong is the execution.

I think this is very welcome, regardless of who is in Government. Some sensitive material will always involve informing the Minister’s office under no surprises, but there probably is too many layers and hoops to go through.

I actually support amending the so all Cabinet level documents get released proactively after say six months, even if not requested.

Dame Beverley, who is president of the International Ombudsman Institute, said she had been tempted to publish a league table of best-to-worst agencies, as other bodies did abroad.

“We haven’t resorted to that in New Zealand but each day that goes by it becomes more tempting.” She said the framework of the inquiry had been completed and it would be launched in the next few months.

They should. In the absence of official stats, bloggers such as No Right Turn compile their own league tables. But would be better to have official ones.

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