The OIA and your right to know

The Law Commission has just put out a discussion paper on the Official Information Act and how it can be improved. They want your input by the 10th of December.

While having the OIA has clearly been a good thing, it could work a whole lot better in terms of timeliness and making sure people get access to the information they are entitled to.

Check out the Green Party’s open government policy for some ideas on how the OIA can be made better.

Have your say and help keep New Zealand politics honest!

4 Comments Posted

  1. Part of what Idiot/Savant has been highlighting is that many agencies and ministers don’t even know if they’ve been complying with the Act because they don’t monitor anything, and don’t necessarily prioritise it as they should. What I see as unusual is that 100+ agencies are all subject to exactly the same rules and due dates, but they’re all being asked to monitor and audit and generally police themselves independently. The ombudsman isn’t resourced to care about how well they do it unless someone complains, and even if someone does complain it often only relates to a specific request.

    I think it’d make much sense if the OIA process was rearranged so a specific agency would tunnel every request, making sure there’s a clear record of when it was asked, when any responses are due, if and when things are transferred or extended, and if there’s been a complaint. Imagine a central service or website where you could lodge your question and clearly see when a response was due, and know the entity would be transparently breaking the law if it didn’t respond in time. On the flip-site, people responsible for answering the question would be able to clearly see what their responsibilities are, without having to rely on an internal system. Making the whole thing more external would also mean clearer auditing of every entity subject to the OIA without them also having to manage themselves, which is what Idiot/Savant was trying to achieve.

    Personally I think there would also be benefit in adding transparency around the questions, to make it more visible to everyone what the OIA is used and how it’s used. Journalists probably wouldn’t like their fishing expeditions to be exposed weeks in advance, undermining whatever front page scoop they were hoping they might stumble upon, but I don’t think the intent of the OIA is to sell commercials in newspapers and on TV. Obviously there would need to be sensitivity around some things where privacy is involved.

  2. The biggest obstacle being, our average bureaucracy can’t decide between ‘official information’ and gossip.
    The lawyers be gulpin’

  3. And about time too. I am amazed as to the extent to which Ministers and Government Departments deliberately frustrate the intent of the OIA.

    Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn has been highlighting this for ages.

    We should try to make the most of this opportunity.

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