We have rock solid proof that the Government has been denying oia requests as out of scope, when they were beyond any dispute within scope. It is possibly no coincidence that the PM's Deputy Chief of Staff who approved this, was also named by Dr Sharma as taking part in a seminar for Labour MPs on how to avoid disclosing information under the OIA.
A proper inquiry should examine the following issues:
- Who was involved in the decision to declare the Nash e-mail as not falling within the OIA, and what was their reasoning?
- Who decided to redact the e-mail being sending it to the Ombudsman, and what parts were redacted?
- Why did the Ombudsman's Office accept a redacted e-mail, and not insist in seeing the full e-mail before rejecting the appeal?
- Have any other OIA requests to Ministers in the last five years been improperly rejected as having been out of scope, when they were not? i have been informed of at least one other specific request which was improperly denied as existing.
- Did the two senior staffers in the PMs Office communicate in any way that substance of the Nash e-mail to the Prime minister, the PMs Chief of Staff, the Deputy PM, DPMC, the Cabinet Office etc. If not, why not.
- Did any person discuss with Stuart Nash before 2023, that the e-mail he sent was inappropriate and he should desist from further ones
- Have the actions of the PMs Office staffers complied with the public service code of conduct for ministerial staffers, specifically the requirement to act lawfully and ethically, and using official resources and information carefully and only for proper purposes.
Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn highlights why this needs to be an independent inquiry by a KC or Judge.
I have two comments here. The first is that there seems to be no reason whatsoever for this request to have been escalated to the Prime Minister's office, and it seems to be another example of Labour's informational control-freakery. The fact that it was the PM's staff who ruled the email “out of scope” because it wasn't “received in his capacity as a minister” also echoes Gaurav Sharma's claims about the PM's office instructing MPs about how to hide information from the OIA by claiming it was received in a party capacity. (In this case its strictly false, because information from Cabinet discussions can only be held in a Ministerial capacity; the PM's staff's willingness to overlook this calls every OIA judgement they have ever made into question, and suggests they are systematically illegally withholding information on political grounds. Unfortunately, the Ombudsman can't do anything about it, because OIA investigations can only be in relation to a specific request, while Ministers have ensured that the Ombudsmen's Act, which allows own-motion inquiries into OIA practices, doesn't apply to them. Convenient, isn't it?)
I/S also states:
My second comment is that this is a perfect example of why the OIA needs criminal penalties for deliberate violations. Canada does this, with the Access to Information Act having a penalty of two years imprisonment for those who, with intent to frustrate a request, conceal, falsify or destroy records. We should do the same, to deter such behaviour and enable public servants to stand up to illegal demands from their political masters. But as with the Ombudsmen's Act, the problem is getting Ministers to apply the law to themselves…
I agree. The OIA needs more teeth.
Either way, its clear that the announced review into what else Nash might have corruptly disclosed isn't enough; we also need a full investigation into Labour's handling of OIA requests. And if this government won't do it, I'd hope the next one will.
That's a good idea. National and ACT should announce they will launch an inquiry if they become Government.