Chief Ombudsman on the OIA

The report is here. Nothing too startling in there, but some very useful recommendations which I hope the Government adopts. They include:

  • The Prime Minister and his Ministers should issue clear, visible statements of their commitment to the principle and purposes of the and their expectations of their agencies to comply with its requirements.
  • The Ministry of Justice should develop guidance for agencies (and consider developing a model publication scheme) on what should be included in the Directory of Official Information that will assist requesters to make effective, targeted OIA requests to agencies.
  • All agencies should ensure their websites have a page, no more than one click away from the home page, which provides the public with key information on how to make a request for official information, what the agency’s internal policies and guides on processing OIA requests are, who to contact for assistance, and the information the agency supplies to the Ministry of Justice for inclusion in the Directory of Official Information.
  • Agencies should ensure compliance with the OIA is specifically included in all employees’ job descriptions.
  • Agencies should publicly report on the OIA training their staff have undergone in the last 3 years.
  • Agencies should ensure they have a comprehensive policy concerning the proactive release of information they hold, which includes how to maximise the benefits of proactive release while also managing risks that may arise from the release of certain types of information.

One good example of an agency stepping up is Statistics NZ. Craig Foss announced:

Statistics New Zealand has also begun publishing online, its responses to requests received under the Official Information Act.

“This is similar to the process that Treasury follows, aiming to increase the accessibility and availability of information to help enrich and promote informed debate,” says Mr Foss.

It is incredibly helpful when you can see what information has already been released. I’d love to see the Government set up a central site where all responses are made available, say five days after given to the requester.

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