Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hoist by their own petard

Back in 2009 Parliament passed a new Immigration Act. One of the "features" of the new Act was a massive increase in what the Act terms "absolute discretion" - the power to make a decision without having to give reasons. Immigration New Zealand loved this, and promptly went beyond the law by instructing their staff not just to not give reasons to their victims in such cases, but to not even record them in the first place. Now, that instruction and attitude has come back to bite them in the arse.

In a case note released today, the Ombudsman has ruled that the absence of recorded reasons for an immigration decision makes it unreasonable:

The Chief Ombudsman formed the provisional opinion that because the DDMs had failed to record reasons, it could not be determined that all relevant considerations had been addressed and that therefore the Ministry’s decisions were unreasonable. The Chief Ombudsman considered that the case notes prepared for consideration of the complainant’s requests were insufficient to demonstrate that the decision was properly
reached, and that any process omitting to record reasons for a decision was administratively unsound.

Whoops! Especially when you remember that the decision not to record reasons in the first place was made explicitly in an attempt to thwart such review. Instead, its made all such decisions instantly overturnable. The good news is that Immigration has since rescinded the instruction not to record reasons, and now requires that they be "briefly" recorded. But we're still looking at nearly two years of decisions being prima facie unreasonable. Heckuva job they're doing there. Great use of public money. But somehow, I doubt that the muppets who came up with this idea will face any consequences whatsoever for their incompetence.