Thursday, March 10, 2016

A reasonable prejudice

MBIE is in the middle of a scandal over its payroll system which has seen the Ministry systematically underpay its employees. Which naturally invites the question of "who wrote this shit software?" Unfortunately, MBIE won't say:

The Government is refusing to name the supplier of a ministry payroll system after potentially thousands of state servants were underpaid.

This week the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) confirmed it had underpaid staff, potentially for up to 10 years, because of an error calculating holiday and shift entitlements.

A spokeswoman for Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, who is responsible for MBIE, said releasing the name of the supplier was the ministry's call.

But it has refused to name the provider, after treating Stuff's query formally as an Official Information Act request, saying it "would be likely unreasonably to prejudice the commercial position of the person who is the subject matter of the information".

There's no question that naming the supplier of a failed payroll system would be likely to prejudice their commercial position. But "unreasonably"? Really?

If a company makes a shit product, they deserve to be named and shamed for it. If this drives them out of business, maybe they shouldn't have made a shit product. This isn't "unreasonable" - it's how markets are supposed to operate. MBIE's position is that of a captive agency, protecting incompetent businesses which violate basic market standards. And when they're the agency responsible for consumer protection law, that's pretty frightening.