Friday, September 04, 2015

More secrecy from National

Two years ago, the government announced a plan to transform school property, including a $300 million fund to fix mouldy schools. The government has made a lot of noise about how they're going to spend a lot of money on this, but when asked about it, they refuse to say where:

A list of the country's most leaky and mouldy schools is being kept secret by the Government because it doesn't want Crown ministers pressured to make decisions.


The Herald asked the Ministry of Education for a list of those schools needing major redevelopment.

It was given the names of just 16 schools - those already publicly approved.

The rest of the list was declined, with the head of the infrastructure service Kim Shannon saying their redevelopments were "by no means guaranteed".

"The list may change due to budget constraints and due to the possibility that other schools may be identified as higher priority once condition assessment work is completed."

The request was declined under section 9(2)(i) of the Official Information Act "so as not to prejudice the decisions of minister and/or Cabinet decision-making process".

As the article notes, that section actually applies to information which would prejudice the government from engaging in "commercial activities" - which simply isn't the case. Its a bullshit withold, and obviously so. (Its also hard to see what other grounds could apply? "Negotiations"? Not internally. "Free and frank opinion"? Doesn't apply to facts. "Confidential advice"? Might apply to the priority, but not to the list itself).

In light of such an abuse, the Greens' Catherine Delahunty is asking, with some justification, whether the Minister has instructed officials to withhold information unlawfully in order to protect the government. Its a good question. Officials don't use such transparently bullshit tactics on their own, and the natural suspicion is pressure from above. And this government has demonstrated a clear preference for secrecy, and for abusing the law to maintain it.