Yesterday, the Prime Minister admitted that his government withholds Official Information Act (OIA) requests for longer than necessary when it suits his government politically to do so. This is not allowed under the Official Information Act.
The OIA is an integral part of our democratic system. It was designed to increase participation of New Zealanders in governance and to ensure accountability.
Abuse of power is at an all-time high under this Government, to the point that Chief Ombudsmen Dame Beverly Waken is undertaking an inquiry into the process to ascertain why there are so many allegations of abuse. She stated she was “appalled” by the allegations and has reiterated that “We may as well kiss democracy goodbye” if the OIA system does not work.
These are heavy words from a much respected independent body that is charged with overseeing our Government’s work in this area.
Governments have accountability to the people. This cannot be waived for political convenience – this defeats the point of the Act. Governments are supposed to work for every New Zealander, and it is our fundamental right to be able to hold them to account.
The Prime Minister has tried to bat this away by saying previous Governments have done the same. “Everyone else does it too” is an poor excuse and is no reason to circumvent an essential instrument that keeps the Government honest and accountable.