Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We can no longer trust Bill English's OIA responses

Yesterday in Question Time, Winston Peters accused Finance Minister Bill English of outright lying in the response to an OIA request:

“On December 16, 2014 Mr English replied to a specific New Zealand First OIA request detailing the nature and month, that no documents existed between himself or his staff and Federated Farmers in March 2013.

“We gave the Minister every opportunity because we made a slightly different request for the same documents detailing the nature and month. On August 17 2015 Mr English replied, again saying that no such documents existed.

“However, this was not true.

“On March, 26, 2013 Mr English wrote to Federated Farmers saying there were no plans to establish a foreign land ownership registry. This is attached and came in response to a letter on 13 February 2013 from the then President, Bruce Wills, to establish a register of foreign ownership.

Peters calls this an abuse of the OIA process, and that's a possibility (and one which would be a criminal offence in the UK and Canada, but not in NZ). But there's also an alternative explanation: English and his office could be such utter muppets that they either don't keep records of official correspondence (in violation of the Public Records Act) or can't find those records when asked repeatedly to look for them. But whatever the explanation, the clear upshot is that we can simply no longer trust OIA responses from Bill English to be complete and accurate. And that is just unacceptable.