Friday, July 18, 2014

An OIA horror story

DPF has an OIA horror story:

Andy Tookey filed an OIA with the Auckland District Health Board for a copy of a slide presentation by the Organ Donor Service to a taxpayer funded official meeting.

They refused the request on the grounds of privacy, even though no names were requested.

Tookey went to the Ombudsman who said it must be released.

They then declined on the basis it would be made public in six months time.

Again the Ombudsman indicated he would rule against them.

So what did the Organ Donor Service do?

They deleted the information.

(The information requested was a powerpoint presentation of the results of an ICU death audit. Which raises the question of what they were trying to hide...)

As the Ombudsman notes, this is a clear violation of the Public Records Act's requirement to create and retain proper records. Deleting the information is a criminal offence. Unfortunately the penalty - a $10,000 fine - is so derisory as to be no deterrent against public agencies. If the bureaucrats responsible were able to be held personally liable, perhaps it would be a different story.

The idea that an agency would simply defy the Ombudsman like this is also deeply troubling. They're a mana-based office, which hardly ever needs to pull out the big stick of formal recommendations. If departments are going to simply ignore their less formal findings, then they are clearly going to have to move to more formal mechanisms.